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|}bil0s0plwa.l Classics for 6ng(isfj | 







F I H T E 


*Y ^*f*** * 



I.DESCARTES, . . . By Professor MAHAFFY, Dublin. 

2. BUTLER, ... By the Rev. W. LUCAS COLLINS, M.A. 


4. FICHTE, .... By Professor ADAMSON, Glasgow. 

5. KANT, . ... .By Professor WALLACE, Oxford. 

0. HAMILTON, . . . . .By Professor VEITCH. 

1. HEGEL, . . , . . By the MASTER OF BALLIOL. 


9. VICO, .... By Professor FLINT, Edinburgh. 

10. HOBBES, .... By Professor CROOM ROBERTSON. 

11. HUME, , . . . By Professor KNIGHT, St Andrews. 

12. SPINOZA, . . . . . By Principal CAIRD, Glasgow. 

13. BACON. PART I., . . , . By Professor NICHOL. 

14. BACON. PART II., .... By Professor NICHOL. 

15. LOCKE, .... By Professor CAMPBELL FRASER. 

F I C H T E. 



IT happens but rarely that the life of a philosopher has 
been so closely connected with the historical develop 
ment of his people, that his name should be remembered 
rather on account of his practical activity than for his 
speculative researches. Yet if one does not misinter 
pret the evidence supplied in ample quantity by the 
numerous speeches, addresses, essays, memorials, and 
other documents which marked the celebration of the 
centenary of Eichte in 1862, circumstances in his case 
must have combined to bring about this result. Many 
occasional references were made by various speakers and 
writers to the philosophy of Fichte, and much was said 
of the speculative depth and richness of his writings, 
but all such remarks were manifestly external and by 
the way. The subtle metaphysician of the Wissenschafts- 
lehre had evidently, in the estimation of his admirers, 
been overshadowed by the patriotic orator of the Ad- 

P. IV. A 

2 Ficlite. 

dresses to the German Nation. There exists not now, 
there never did exist to any extent, a school of follow 
ers of Fichte ; it may well be doubted if there are at 
present half-a-dozen students of his works. As a pa 
triot, as representative of what seems noblest and lofti 
est in the German character, he lives, and will doubt 
less continue to live, in the grateful remembrance of 
his countrymen ; as a metaphysician, he lives not at 
all beyond the learned pages of the historians of phil 

That such should be the case will not appear surpris 
ing when there are taken into consideration the nature of 
the historical surroundings of Fichte s career, and the 
relations in which he stood to them. His life coincided 
in time with the rise and partial development of the 
two events which have most affected the current of 
modern history, the revolution in political ideas which 
originated in France, and the birth of intellectual activ 
ity in Germany. His life s work was the part he played 
in the furtherance of these movements, and the durability 
of his fame has of necessity depended on the signifi 
cance of his contributions to them, and the way in which 
they have worked themselves out. 

Although the revolution in political and social organi 
sations and the rise of new forms of intellectual life in 
Germany differed widely in external features, for they 
belonged to diverse spheres of practical activity, they 
were in fundamental agreement, not only as regards their 
ultimate aim, but also as regards the idea on which they 
proceeded. Both were in character reconstructive; in 
both the foundation for the new edifice was sought in the 
common, universal nature of humanity itself. The new 

Introductory. 3 

political idea of the French Revolution an idea ex 
pressed clearly, though with some contradictoriness, in 
the Contrat social was that of the human agent, endowed 
by nature with certain primitive and inalienable rights, 
as the unit in the organisation of the state. The individ 
ual, on this view, was no longer to be regarded as receiv 
ing all state-rights by historical accident ; distinctions 
of rank among citizens were no longer to be accepted on 
mere ground of fact; the state itself was to be looked upon 
as the mechanism in and through which the primitive 
rights of all individuals may receive due and adequate 
realisation ; and the final standard of judgment as to the 
forms of the state organisation was placed in the reason 
of the individual. The body politic thus appeared not as 
the accidental result of the conflict of individual, arbi 
trary volitions, but as the necessary product of the con 
joint will of individuals with common characteristics, 
with primitive and equal rights. The individual was 
thought of, not as the embodiment of pure arbitrary ca 
price, but as the expression of a certain common nature, 
to the development of which he has an original, indefeas 
ible right. A doctrine like this is liable to misuse, for 
the notion of rational liberty may easily degenerate, and 
historically did degenerate, into the apotheosis of mere 
power of will ; and the positive element in it, the idea 
of the abstract rights of the individual, probably requires 
much modification : but it was an important advance upon 
the previous theory and practice of politics. 

When one examines the general characteristics of the 
new intellectual productions of Germany, more especi 
ally in the sphere of philosophy, one is struck by the 
close resemblance in fundamental idea to that just 

4 Fichte. 

noted. It was the essence of Kant s endeavour, both in 
speculative and in ethical research, to show that the 
ultimate unit, the conscious subject, was not a mere atom, 
devoid of intrinsic characteristics, receiving all know 
ledge from without, and impelled to act solely by the 
natural relations between his individual impulses and 
things. In his view, the nature of the thinking sub 
ject was an indispensable factor both in knowledge and 
in action. In all knowledge, as he strove to show, 
there is a common element which springs from the very 
essence of the subject as cognitive or conscious ; in all 
action, the indispensable element is the conscious exer 
cise of will under common, universal law. Thus in the 
Kantian philosophy, the ultimate standard, both of in 
tellectual and of ethical judgment, was indeed the individ 
ual, but the individual only as containing a universal or 
common feature. On the basis supplied by this com 
mon element, philosophy might proceed to reconstruct 
what had been dissolved by the speculative atomism of 

Although, from the nature of the matter, no similarly 
exact statement can be given for the essence of the in 
tellectual efforts in the direction of pure literature, 
there was manifest in them in various degrees the same 
tendency towards expression of the universal common 
elements in human life, as opposed to the treatment of 
trivial, personal, and accidental aims and occurrences 
which had characterised much of the earlier eighteenth, 
century literature. If evidence of this were otherwise 
wanting, it would be amply supplied by considering the 
excesses of the principle in the writings of the first 
Romantic school. Not every one could bend the bow 

Introductory. 5 

of Kant and Fichte : the philosophic principle that the 
individual consciousness is the ultimate test of truth 
and goodness, became for weaker minds a practical pre 
cept of moral and intellectual scepticism. The universal 
element sank out of sight, and there remained only, as 
aim of life, the satisfaction of individual, personal ca 
price. Wilhelm Lovell is but a reckless parody of the 
Kantian system; Lucinde, a hideous misapplication of 
Fichte s Wissenschaftslehre. 

Now the historic results of these two movements have 
been, for Germany at least, very different in character. 
On the one hand, the rude shock given by the political 
revolution and its consequences to the amorphous organ 
isation of the German States, absolutely forced upon the 
German mind a conception which otherwise might long 
have remained dormant the conception of a united, 
single German power. History amply shows us that it is 
often by what we in our ignorance call the brutal neces 
sity of facts that an idea gains for itself a place among 
the realities of life ; and there can be no question that 
the unity of the German people, foreshadowed in elo 
quent language by her patriotic thinkers at the begin 
ning of this century, has been wrought out, with much 
swaying and struggling, rather by the pressure of exter 
nal forces than by the unanimous acceptance of the 
idea. However this may be, and however widely the 
united German empire may differ in inner characteristics 
from that patriotic state to which Fichte, in his famous 
Addresses, summoned his countrymen, no German who 
feels the full significance of the unity of his nation can 
fail to look back with pride and gratitude to the elo 
quent thinker, who, with the thoroughness of a philoso- 

6 Fichte. 

plier and the zeal ot a patriot, drew in ideal form the 
outlines of that which has now been happily realised. 
The part which Fichte has played in this movement is 
a warrant of undying fame. 

On the other hand, the speculative movement begun 
by Kant is yet far from having exhausted itself : it can 
hardly be said to have begun to produce its full fruits. 
The contributions made here by Fichte were of the highest 
importance, and, as will afterwards become clear, they 
form an integral portion of the completed philosophic 
view, which in partial fashion was first presented by 
Kant. Nevertheless, Fichte s work as a philosopher 
was never, even for himself, a finished whole, and the 
permanent results of his activity have been absorbed 
in the more comprehensive elaboration of the Kantian 
principles which make up the philosophy of Hegel. It 
is not probable, therefore, that Fichte s system, as a 
system, will ever discharge a more important function 
than that which has already been its work in the history 
of philosophy. It has made clear much that was ob 
scure in Kant ; it has contributed to give a wider range 
to the method of philosophy characteristic of the Kant 
ian system, and it has served to effect the transition 
from Kant to Hegel. More than this it has not done, 
and cannot do. Not without a certain historic justifi 
cation, therefore, has it come about that the fame of 
Yichte depends more on his patriotic and practical 
efforts than on his speculative labours. 

Ample materials for the life of Fichte arc supplied by 
the biographical work of his son, I. H. Fichte, J. G. 
Fichte s Lebenund literarischer Brief wechscl, 2 vols., 2d 

Introductory. 7 

eel, 1862. An interesting sketch, from these materials, 
has been long before the English reader in Dr AY. Smith s 
Memoir of Fichte, 3d ed., 1873. I. H. Fichte s work 
should be supplemented by AYeiiihold, Achtundvierzig 
Brief e von J. G. Fichte und seinen Yerwandten, 1862 ; 
and by Noack, J. G. Fichte nach seinem Leben, Lehren 
und AYirken, which is somewhat ill-tempered but 

The complete works of the philosopher fill eleven 
volumes. The last three, Nachgelassene AYerke, con 
sisting mainly of the notes of lecture courses, were pub 
lished by I. H. Fichte in 1834-35. The other works, 
most of which had been separately published, were col 
lected, arranged, and edited, also by I. H. Fichte, in 
1845-46. The arrangement is systematic, but not free 
from faults. Several of the more important of the popu 
lar writings of Fichte have been translated with great 
elegance and skill by Dr AY. Smith, to whom it is due 
that Ficlite is more than a name in this country. Trans 
lations of some of the philosophic works have appeared 
in America, where the earnest study of German thought 
has been fostered by the unwearied and self-sacrificing 
zeal of Dr AY. T. Harris, the editor of the Journal of 
Speculative Philosophy. There is no English work 
upon Fichte s system ; in German the best expositions 
are those of Lowe, Fortlage, Erdmann, and Kuno 



JOHANN GOTTLIEB FICHTE was born on the 19th May 
1762, at Kammenau, in Saxon Lnsatia. The little vil 
lage of Rammenau lies in the picturesque country, well 
wooded and well watered, between Bischofswerda and 
Camenz, not far from the boundary separating the dis 
trict of Meissen from Upper Lusatia. Here, as the tra 
ditions of the Fichte family run, a Swedish sergeant in 
the army of Gustavus Adolphus, who had been wounded 
in a skirmish in the neighbourhood, was left by his 
comrades in the care of one of the kindly Lutheran 
villagers. Returning health did not lead the stranger 
to take his departure. He continued under the hospi 
table roof of his benefactor, married the daughter of the 
house, and, as all the sons had fallen in the bloody wars 
of religion, became heir to the small portion of ground 
belonging to the family. From this northern settler 
sprang the numerous family of the Fichtes, noted, even 
in a neighbourhood distinguished for simplicity of man 
ners and uprightness of character, for their solid probity 
and sterling honesty. 

Youth and Early Struggles. 9 

The grandfather of the philosopher, the only descend 
ant of the original stock remaining in Kammenau, cul 
tivated the tiny patrimonial property, and in addition 
carried on a small trade in linen ribbons, manufactured 
at his own loom. His son, Christian Fichte, was sent 
at an early age to the neighbouring town of Pulsnitz, 
and apprenticed to Johaun Schurich, a wealthy linen- 
spinner and owner of a factory. After the fashion of 
diligent apprentices in all ages, Christian Fichte wooed 
and won the heart of his master s daughter, but not 
without much trouble was the consent of the wealthy 
burgher given to a marriage which he thought beneath 
his family rank. Only on condition that his son-in-law 
did not presume to settle in Pulsnitz was a reluctant 
permission given, and Christian Fichte enabled to bring 
his bride to the paternal roof. With her dowry he 
built a house for himself in Eammenau, still in the 
possession of his descendants, and established there his 
looms. On the 19th May 1762 was born their eldest 
child, Johann Gottlieb, who was quickly followed by six 
sons and one daughter. 

From what may be gathered regarding his parents in 
Fichte s letters, it is plain that the marriage was not 
altogether productive of happiness. Madame Fichte 
seems never to have been able quite to forget that in 
uniting herself to a humble peasant and handicraftsman 
she had descended from a superior station. She had all 
the pride and narrowness of ideas which are natural 
possessions of the wealthier classes in a small provincial 
town. Her temper, obstinate, quick, and capricious, 
overmastered the weaker and more patient nature of her 
husband, and she was, to all intents and purposes, the 

10 Fichte. 

head of the household. Her eldest son resembled her 
strongly in the main features of his character, though 
lie had in addition solidity of principle and reserve, and 
their wills came into frequent and painful collision. 
The mother, like many a Scottish matron in similar case, 
had the darling ambition to see her talented son invested 
with the dignity of clergyman, a.nd for many years cir 
cumstances led him thoroughly to coincide with this 
wish. As he gradually altered his views, and felt him 
self less and less inclined for the clerical career, his rela 
tions with his mother became more and more strained 
and unpleasant. Fortune had removed him from the 
paternal home at an early age, and he was rarely able to 
visit his family ; but after the final decision as to his 
career, even such occasional intercourse seemed to cease. 
The rudiments of his education Fichte began to receive 
very early from his father, who, when the day s work 
was over, would teach the lad to read and to repeat by 
heart proverbs and hymns, and would talk to him of his 
apprentice travels in Saxony and Fraiiconia. Of even 
greater importance for his training was the curiously in 
tense interest the boy displayed in listening to the weekly 
sermons in the village church. These sermons he would 
repeat aloud, almost word for word, in such fashion as 
to show that the effort was not one of mere passive re 
tention, but of active imagination. Strength of memory, 
intense fondness for reading and for quiet imaginative 
meditation, and deep earnestness of moral character, 
marked him at an early age as a boy of remarkable gifts. 
An anecdote referring to this period of his life, when he 
was about seven years of age, is characteristic enough to 
deserve notice. His father had brought him as a pro- 

Early Education. 11 

sent from the neighbouring fair a copy of the famous 
story of the Invulnerable Siegfried. The delight in this 
book so overmastered him that his other tasks began to 
be neglected, and he determined to free himself from 
temptation by destroying the cause of the evil. Quietly 
and secretly he took the little book, and, after a hard 
struggle with himself, summoned courage enough to hurl 
it into the streamlet that flowed by the house. As he 
saw the little treasure carried away by the stream he 
burst into tears ; but to his father s inquiry as to how 
the accident had happened he would give no explana 
tion, preferring then, as often in later years, to endure 
misunderstanding and pain rather than to offer defence 
for what he felt was right. When, some time later, his 
father proposed to give him a similar book as a present, 
he earnestly entreated that it might be bestowed upon 
one of his brothers, and that he might not again be 
subjected to such temptation. 

So gifted by nature, the boy might have grown up in 
his narrow surroundings, able and upright, notable per 
haps among his fellows, but wasting powers fitted for 
greater things, had not a mere accident transferred him 
to a wider sphere of life, and given him opportunity 
for a fuller development. Freiherr von Miltitz, owner 
of an estate at Seven Oaks, near Meissen, chanced one 
Sunday in the year 1771 to visit the family Von Hoff 
mann in Rammenau, and arrived too late to hear the 
sermon by the village pastor, whom he much admired. 
On expressing regret, he was informed that the loss could 
readily be repaired, for there was in the village a little 
lad able to repeat verbatim any sermon that had been 
preached. The little Fichte was sent for, and so great 

12 Fickte. 

an impression was made upon Von Miltitz that he at 
once proposed to the parents to undertake the charge of 
the lad s education if they would submit him to his 
care. Xo objection was raised on their side, and Fichte 
was forthwith removed by his patron to Seven Oaks. 

The surroundings of his new home, the restraints of 
his new mode of life, ai first weighed heavily upon the 
boy s mind, and his kind protector judged it best to 
place him under the care of the Pastor Krebel at Nied- 
erau, near Meissen. Here he remained for nearly three 
years, affectionately cared for by the childless pastor and 
his wife, and receiving a thorough groundwork in ele 
mentary classics. In 1774 he appears to have been for a 
brief interval at the public school of Meissen, though there 
is some obscurity about this fact in his biography; and in 
October of that year he was entered at the famous foun 
dation-school of Pforta, near Naumburg. His patron, 
Von Miltitz, had died in the early part of 1774, and we 
have no record to show by what means the expenses of 
Fichte s education continued to be defrayed. From a 
chance expression in one of his letters of a later date, it 
would appear probable that his parents at least contri 
buted, but undoubtedly they were not in a condition to 
undertake the whole charge. 

The years spent at Schulpforta had a powerful influ 
ence on the development of Fichte s character, in both 
a moral and an intellectual aspect. The school was 
even then regulated on the old monastic plan, and much 
resembled what in this country till recently used to be 
the system of the old foundation or endowed schools. 
The pupils were strictly secluded from the outer world ; 
the order of daily life, of amusement, of costume, of 

Schuipforta. 1 3 

study, was regulated by antiquated precepts. Each of 
the older scholars had a junior intrusted to his care, and 
exercised almost unlimited control over his apprentice. 
The happiness of the juniors thus depended much upon 
the qualities of the older members, and, as is inevitable 
in any close institution, the traditions of the place were 
in many respects evil, and detrimental to the character 
of the scholars. Such a constrained life tended only to 
deepen and strengthen traits already sufficiently marked 
in Fichte s character. He was by nature reserved, yet 
opinionative that is, little capable of altering any view 
of the truth of which he had become convinced, and alto 
gether incapable of making any effort to remove miscon 
ception which might arise as to his action. The entire 
want of family life contributed to strengthen this habit 
of inner self-dependence, which could have found relief 
only in the manifold interests and duties, in the constant 
sympathy and co-operation with others, arising from the 
details of domestic intercourse. No substitute for this 
was found in Schuipforta. The course of instruction, 
moreover, thorough but narrow for it was almost entirely 
confined to the classical curriculum was not that best 
suited to develop the neglected side of Fichte s character. 
In his life and in his works, what one notices as most 
striking is his incapacity for appreciating experience. In 
metaphysics, in psychology, in ethics, in politics, he con 
structs from within. Nature, in his system, appears 
merely as the negative limit of mind. Nor in his prac 
tical activity, as will appear, was he more fortunate. 
"Fichte," said Goethe, with much truth, "too often for 
gets that experience is not in the least what he has 
imagined it to be." It hardly admits of question that a 

1 4 Fichte. 

more realistic education, a training in physical science 
such as his great predecessor fortunately possessed, would 
have given greater weight and force to Fichte s specula 
tions, greater elasticity and prudence to his action. 

It was some time before Fichte accommodated himself 
to the life at Schulpforta. He was at first unfortunate 
in the senior selected for him. The close restraint and 
the unbearable tyranny to which he was subjected 
preyed upon him, and, after having given warning to 
his senior in his naively honourable fashion that he 
would endeavour to escape from the school unless he 
were treated differently, he did begin a flight towards 
Naumburg, with the vague intention of making his way 
into the world of which he knew so little, and settling as 
a new Robinson Crusoe in some deserted island. Only 
the thought that by carrying out his exploit he would 
for ever cut himself off from his parents, induced him to 
return to the hated school. A frank confession of his 
intention, and of the grounds for it, procured him not 
only pardon from the rector, but also relief from the 
tyranny of his former senior. He was placed under the 
charge of another pupil, and the years began to flow 
more happily for him. When at length he had reached 
the dignity of Pi hnauer, he began to enjoy the greater 
liberty of study permitted to the senior scholars ; and 
though the great works of recent German literature were 
carefully excluded from the school, he then obtained 
through Licber, a newly introduced tutor, the successive 
numbers of Lessing s Anti-Goeze. The style and matter 
of this work made a deep impression on him, and in his 
enthusiastic fashion he resolved that the earliest oppor 
tunity should be taken to make himself known to the 

University Studies. 15 

author, and acknowledge his gratitude to him. The cir 
cumstances of his life and the premature death of 
Lessing, however, prevented this resolution from being 
carried into effect. 

In October 1780, Fichte s school career closed; his 
final essay, Oratio de recto pra3ceptorum poeseos et 
rhetorices usu, still existing in the archives of Schul- 
pforta, received its meed of praise, and he was ready for 
the higher educational training of a university. In the 
Michaelmas term of that year he enrolled himself in the 
Theological Faculty at Jena not, so far as we can judge, 
because his heart was entirely given to the theological 
career, but because no other seemed to present an open 
ing to a poor and friendless student. The Jena lectures 
do not appear to have done much for him, and in the fol 
lowing year he transferred himself to Leipzig, where many 
of his Schulpforta comrades were settled. Here, in addi 
tion to certain lectures by Schiitz on ^Eschylus, the course 
followed by him with greatest attention seems to have 
been that by Petzold on systematic theology. Fichte s 
mind, during this period, evidently dwelt on a problem 
which has sorely exercised many a student in like cir 
cumstances, the relation between divine providence or 
foreknowledge and the voluntary determination of human 
action. Of the alternatives olfering themselves as pos 
sible solutions, he chose with resoluteness and complete 
conviction that which we call technically the doctrine of 
determinism. The idea of the individual will as but a 
necessary link in the scheme of divine government, gave 
a certain consistency to his thoughts, and was expressed 
by him in various sermons preached in villages in the 
neighbourhood of Leipzig. From the pastor of one of 

16 Fichte. 

these village churches he first learned that his doctrine 
might be designated by the hateful title of Spinozism, 
and from the same friend he received the Refutation of 
the Errors of Spinoza, by Wolff, through which he came 
to know the outlines of a system destined to play a most 
important part in the later development of his thought. 
On the whole, there seems little reason to doubt that so 
far as the young candidatus theologice had formed opinions 
upon speculative and critical subjects, they accorded 
with the Ethics of Spinoza and the Anti-Goeze of 


The three years spent at Leipzig had been years of 
bitter poverty and hard struggle, which strengthened, 
and at the same time tended to harden, Fichte s proud 
and reserved spirit. Even severer discipline was in 
store for him. The completion of his regular academic 
course still left him without a definite profession. Less 
and less inclined for the clerical life, and embittered by 
the reproaches and petulant urgency of his mother, he 
spent three years, eating his heart out, as tutor in vari 
ous families around Leipzig. To his humble petition, 
in 1787, that the Consistory of Saxony would allot to 
him some small stipend such as was often given to poor 
Saxon students of theology, in order that he might com 
plete his theological studies and present himself for the 
licentiate examination, an unfavourable answer was 
returned. Without a profession, without friends, with 
out means, it seemed to him that his life had been 
wasted. At the deepest ebb of his fortunes he obtained 
through a former comrade, Weisse, an unexpected relief 

Early Struggles. 17 

in the offer of a house-tutorship at Zurich. Accepting 
joyfully, he set out on foot, and traversing for the first 
time German provinces outside his native Saxony, 
reached Zurich in September 1788. 

His pupils at Ziirich were the son and daughter of 
Herr Ott, the proprietor of a well-to-do inn, the Gast- 
liof zum. Schwerte. Herr Ott, though somewhat sur 
prised at the character of the education which his new 
tutor proposed to bestow, was not altogether unwilling 
that his children should receive a training superior to 
their station, but his wife bitterly resented all attempts 
to go beyond the accustomed routine. Fichte found his 
task no easy matter, and assuredly the means he adopted 
for carrying it out would not readily have occurred to 
any other tutor in like circumstances. Pie noted with 
care in a daybook or journal all the errors in education 
committed by the parents of his pupils, and submitted 
the record weekly. His strength of character and reso 
luteness of purpose enabled him to bear down any active 
opposition to his plans ; but the situation was forced and 
unpleasing, and at Easter 1790 he made up his mind 
to go. 

During his residence at Zurich he had busied him 
self with many literary efforts, without in any one of 
them manifestly finding his metier. He read and 
translated much of the recent French literature, 
mainly Montesquieu and Rousseau, completed a trans 
lation of Sallust, with an introductory essay on the life 
and style of the author, and wrote a rather elaborate 
critical paper on Biblical Epics, with special refer 
ences to Klopstock s Messias, a paper, which, at 
a later date, was timidly refused by the editor of 

r. iv. B 

18 Fichte. 

the Deutsches Museum, in Leipzig. At various times 
he preached, always with marked success, and exerted 
himself much to have a school of oratory founded at 
Ziirich. For this, in which he had the promise of sup 
port from Lavater, he drew out a complete plan, and the 
document, published by his son, presents many features 
of interest. 

More important for his after-career than these literary 
efforts were the friendships formed by him at Zurich, 
especially with Lavater and with Hartmann Eahn, the 
brother-in-law of Klopstock. Eahn was a highly cul 
tured man, of wide experience of life, and his house was 
the centre of the literary reunions of Ziirich society. 
Fichte, first introduced by Lavater, was soon received as 
an intimate and valued friend. Hartmann Eahn s wife 
had been dead for some years, and his household affairs 
were managed by his daughter, Johanna Maria, at this 
time some thirty years of age, not specially distinguished 
for beauty or talent, but full of womanly gentleness and 
tact. Fichte felt himself from the first attracted towards 
Fraulein Eahn, whose sympathetic nature enabled her 
both to understand his restless and impetuous disposition 
and to supply what was wanting to it. Their friendship 
gradually gave way to a deeper feeling of mutual affec 
tion and esteem. Secretly at first for Fichte s pride 
made him think that an obscure tutor had little right to 
claim the daughter of a wealthy and influential citizen 
they unfolded in letters their feelings for one another ; 
but as the time of his departure from Ziirich drew near, 
it became necessary to make known to Hartmann Eahn 
how matters stood. When Fichte left, he was formally, 
though privately, betrothed to Johanna Maria, 

Early Struggles. 19 

The course of his life was not yet clear before him, 
and from one of the interesting letters to his betrothed 
which has been published by his son, we can judge that 
his own views were not decided. Many plans had been 
debated, and on the whole his hope then was to obtain 
a post as tutor to some influential person at one of the 
German courts, which would give him time to discover 
where his powers were most likely to prove successful. 

" On the whole," he writes, " what I think about it is this : 
the great aim of my existence is to obtain every kind of 
education (not scientific education, in which I find much 
that is vanity, but education of character) which fortune 
will permit me. 

" I look into the way of Providence in my life, and find 
that this may perhaps be the very plan of Providence with 
me. I have filled many situations, played many parts, 
known many men and many conditions of men, and on the 
whole I find that by all these circumstances my character 
lias become more fixed and decided. At my first entrance 
into the world, I wanted everything but a susceptible heart. 
Many qualities in which I was then deficient, I have since 
acquired ; many I still want entirely, and among others that 
of occasionally accommodating myself to those around me, 
and bearing with men who are false or wholly opposed to 
my character, in order to accomplish something great. With 
out this I can never employ as with it the powers which 
Providence has bestowed upon me. 

" Does Providence, then, intend to develop these capacities 
iu me ? Is it not possible that for this very purpose I may 
now be led upon a wider stage ? May not my employment 
at a court, my project of superintending the studies of a 
prince, your father s plan of taking me to Copenhagen may 
not these be hints or ways of Providence towards this end ? 
And shall I, by confining myself to a narrower sphere, one 
which is not even natural to me, seek to frustrate this plan ? 

20 Fichte. 

I have too little talent for bending, for dealing with those 
who are repugnant to me. I can succeed only with good and 
true people ; I am too open. This seemed to you a further 
reason why I w r as unfit to go to a court ; to me, on the con 
trary, it is a reason why I must go there, if any opportunity 
present itself, in order to gain ivhat I am deficient in. 

" I know the business of a scholar, and have nothing new 
to learn about it. To be a scholar by profession I have as 
little talent as may be. I must not only think, I must act ; 
least of all can I think about trifles. ... I have but one 
passion, one want, one all-engrossing desire, to work upon 
those around me. The more I act the happier I seem to be. 
Is this, too, a delusion ? It may be so, but there is truth at 
the bottom of it." l 

With many plans, and full of hope in his future 
career, Eiclite departed for Leipzig in the spring of 
1790. His letters of recommendation to various courts, 
however, produced no result ; the plans which he en 
deavoured to realise at Leipzig, mainly the establishment 
of a literary journal, came to naught ; and in the course 
of a few months he was again reduced to a state of want 
and uncertainty even more harassing than before his 
journey to Zurich. Nothing that he tried seemed to 
succeed. His Essay on Biblical Epics was rejected, as 
has been said, by the timid editor of the Museum, be- 
caused it appeared to reflect on the fame of the great 
Klopstock ; and for the other literary efforts in which 
he engaged, the writing of a tragedy and some tales, 
he had assuredly little faculty. A last effort to effect an 
entrance into the Church was equally fruitless. His 
essay or theme, probably an expansion of the Aphorisms 
on Deism, printed in the collected Works, and dating 

1 Leben, i. 55-58. The whole letter, as there given, is translated 
by Dr Smith. 

Early Struggles. 21 

from 1790, was received with praise by the President of 
the Consistory at Dresden, but at the same time with 
doubt. The worthy theologian thought that the author 
was fitter for the professorial chair than for the pulpit ; 
and Fichte, disgusted with the narrow, jealous domina 
tion exercised over the Saxon clergy, finally gave up all 
hopes of carrying out his early purpose. His letters to Jo 
hanna Eahn during this troubled period sufficiently show 
the distress and vexation under which his proud spirit 
chafed. Even her affectionate counsels and earnest en 
treaties to return to Zurich brought small comfort to 
him. Towards the autumn of the year, however, we 
note a sudden and surprising change in the tone of 
his communications. He had begun to take pupils in 
various subjects, and among others one student presented 
himself to obtain assistance in reading the Critique of 
Pure Reason. Fichte had made no previous study of 
this work, but so soon as he entered upon the new line 
of thought, he found his true vocation. From this time 
onwards the direction of his thoughts and hopes was 
fixed. His own words will show better than any ex 
ternal account what effect the Kantian philosophy had 
upon him. 

"My scheming spirit," he writes to his betrothed, "has 
now found rest, and I thank Providence that, shortly before 
all my hopes were frustrated, I was placed in a position 
which enabled me to bear with cheerfulness the disappoint 
ment. A circumstance which seemed the result of mere 
chance, led me to give myself up entirely to the study of 
the Kantian philosophy, a philosophy that restrains the 
imagination, which was always too powerful with me, gives 
understanding the sway, and raises the whole spirit to an 
indescribable elevation above all earthly considerations. I 

22 Fichte. 

have gained a nobler morality, and instead of occupying 
myself with what is out of me, I employ myself more with 
my own being. This has given me a peace such as I have 
never before experienced ; amid uncertain worldly prospects 
I have passed my happiest days. I shall devote at least 
some years of my life to this philosophy ; and all that I 
write, for some years to come at any rate, shall be upon it. 
It is difficult beyond all conception, and stands greatly in 
need of simplification. The principles, it is true, are hard 
speculations, with no direct bearing upon human life, but 
their consequences are of the utmost importance for an age 
whose morality is corrupted at the fountain-head ; and to set 
these consequences before the world in a clear light would, I 
believe, be doing it a good service." 

" The influence of this philosophy," he writes to his friend 
Achelis, with whom he had had frequent disputes regarding 
the necessity of human actions, " and specially the ethical 
side of it (which, however, is unintelligible without previous 
study of the Critique of Pure Reason ), upon the whole 
spiritual life, and in particular the revolution it has caused 
in my own mode of thought, is indescribable. To you, 
especially, I owe the acknowledgment that I now heartily 
believe in the freedom of man, and am convinced that only 
on this supposition are duty, virtue, or morality of any kind 
so much as possible, a truth which indeed I saw before, and 
perhaps acquired from you." 

The letters to Fraulein Balm now begin to breathe a 
new tone of cheerfulness and happiness, for external 
circumstances were at the same time improving ; indeed, 
so joyous do they become, that it is evident the tender 
heart of Johanna suspected a formidable rival in this 
strange Kantian philosophy. She was not altogether 
pleased that in absence from her he should laugh at 
ill health and abound in the highest spirits. Friends 
at Zurich did not think much of the Kantian philosophy, 

Early Struggles. 23 

which was to them a thing of naught, and she feared 
he would waste his time on utterly unprofitable study. 
Moreover, the scandalous discoveries regarding life in 
Leipzig made in Bahrdt s scandalous Leben led her to 
distrust the influences of the place. With gentle per 
sistence she pressed upon Fichte her favourite plan, that 
he should return to Zurich, be united to her, and trust 
to fortune to open a way whereby his talents might 
receive recognition. Fichte resisted for some time, 
wished to establish some reputation for himself, dreaded 
what might be said by the kindly critics of Zurich if he 
accepted her proposal, but ended in the spring of 1791 
by yielding assent to her entreaties. "At the end of 
this month," he writes on the 1st of March, "I shall be 
free, and have determined to come to thee. I see noth 
ing that can prevent me. I, indeed, still await the 
sanction of my parents; but I have been for long so 
well assured of their love almost, if I may venture to 
say it, of their deference to my opinion that I need 
not anticipate any obstacle on their part." 

Evil Fortune, however, which had sorely wounded 
Fichte many a time, had still another arrow in her 
quiver. The failure of a mercantile house where a large 
portion of Hartmann Eahn s possessions was invested, 
put for a time at least an absolute obstacle in the way 
of the projected marriage. All Johanna s care and at 
tention had to be bestowed upon her father, now ad 
vanced in years and feeble in health. Fichte, with a 
brave heart, packed his knapsack, and set off for War 
saw, where he had received an appointment as house 
tutor in a noble family. 

During the autumn of 1790 he had been busily en- 

24 Fichte. 

gaged in the first of his philosophical writings, an Eluci 
dation or Explanation of the Critique of Judgment ; and 
he had been in hopes that the publication of this little 
work might have preceded his proposed journey to 
Zurich But publishers seem to have been chary ; and, 
after much sending to and fro, the MS. was finally 
doomed to remain in its original imprinted form. It is 
to be regretted that some portions of this, which appear 
to remain, have not been included among Eichte s liter 
ary remains, for the account of the aim and scope of the 
work excites some interest in it. Like most students of 
Kant who have really penetrated into his system, Eichte 
saw that it was above all things necessary to make clear 
the inner connection between the leading ideas of the 
three Kritiken. In the most difficult and yet most in 
structive portion of the * Critique of Judgment, the Intro 
duction, Kant had himself done something towards this 
end ; but much yet remained, and as Eichte s later philo 
sophy is in essence the attempt to carry out, with a fresh 
and original method, the union of theoretical and practi 
cal principles, one would gladly have known what were 
his first impressions on the subject. Eor posterity, how 
ever, as for contemporaries, the work has remained in 

At Warsaw, where he arrived in June, after a pleas 
ant journey, the incidents of which are narrated with 
much spirit in his journal, Eichte found an impossible 
task before him. His patron, the Count Platen, was a 
good, easy-going man, though heavy ; but the Countess 
was a veritable lady of rank, who viewed all tutors as 
mere servants, and whose domineering disposition exacted 
the most servile obedience from her dependants. She 

Visit to Kant. 25 

instantly found Fichte s independent nature unbearable, 
and his French accent atrocious. A very few days were 
sufficient to bring matters to a crisis. The Countess 
attempted unsuccessfully to procure for the objection 
able tutor a post in some other family ; and Fichte, 
resolved not to be treated like a chattel, demanded his 
dismissal and a sum for compensation. The dismissal 
was given with alacrity, the compensation only after 
threat of legal proceedings. With provision for a few 
months, Ficlite then carried out a new idea which had 
occurred to him. lie resolved to visit Kant, and set off 
for Konigsberg. 


On the 1st July he arrived in Konigsberg, and on the 
4th waited upon Kant. As might have been expected, 
he was received but coldly by the aged philosopher, 
whose disposition was anything but expansive, and who 
required to be known for some time before disclosing 
any of his finer and more genial qualities. Fichte was 
disappointed with his interview, and equally dissatisfied 
with the result of attendance upon one of Kant s lectures. 
He could not recognise in the professor the author of the 
Critique, and thought his manner of lecturing listless 
and sleepy. This, too, might to a certain extent have 
been expected, for, as we know, Kant was invariably 
averse to introducing in his lectures any of those pro- 
founder speculations which characterised his published 
works. Fichte, however disappointed with his first 
reception, resolved to bring himself before Kant s notice 
in a way which should be irresistible ; and in the soli 
tude of his quiet inn laboured incessantly for some five 

26 Fickle. 

weeks on an essay developing in a new direction the 
principles of the Critical Philosophy. On the 18th 
August he forwarded his manuscript to Kant, and at 
tended some days later to hear his opinion of its merits. 
Kant received him with the utmost kindness, commended 
such of the essay as he had managed to read, declined 
with his accustomed prudence to discuss either the views 
of the essayist or the principles of his own * Critique, 
and introduced him to several valued friends in Konigs- 
berg to Borowski and Schulz. By this time Fichte s 
scanty means had become wellnigh exhausted; the 
fatigue due to his hard labour at the essay had made 
him dispirited and gloomy; and there seemed no prospect 
of an outlet from his difficulties. On the 1st September 
he disclosed to Kant, in a remarkable and most charac 
teristic letter, the state of his affairs ; indicated, as ap 
parently the one course left to him, a return to his 
home, where he might study in private, and perhaps 
obtain some humble post as village pastor; and entreated 
that Kant would furnish him with the necessary loan 
for carrying out this resolve. As we learn from Eichte s 
journal, Kant declined to accede to this request, but in 
such a manner as in no way lessened Fichte s feelings 
of esteem and admiration for him. He recommended, 
through Borowski, the "Essay" to his own publisher, 
Hartung, and did his utmost to promote Fichte s welfare. 
Hartimg, however, was then absent from Kb nigsberg ; 
another publisher, when applied to, declined to purchase 
the MS.; and Fichte was compelled to accept what he 
had resolved against, a post as private tutor. Kant s 
friend, Schulz, obtained for him an appointment in the 
family of the Count von Krockow, near Danzig, by 

Kantian Studies. 27 

whom he was received, as a protege of Kant s, with the 
most distinguished kindness. It was during the period 
in which he was here settled, amid more genial surround 
ings than he had ever before known, that the surprising 
fate of his adventurous essay opened to him a new path 
in life. 

The problem which Fichte had selected for treatment 
according to Kantian principles, was one upon which as 
yet the author of the Critical Philosophy had made no 
public utterance. Doubtless the question of religion 
had appeared in all the three Critiques, but the utter 
ances in each of these, differing slightly from one another, 
had not been drawn together, and their application was 
limited to what we may call Natural Religion. But, that 
a certain form of belief in a revelation or supernaturally 
given religion actually existed, was a fact, and a fact 
requiring to be explained after the Critical Method. In 
all the previous essays of this method, the plan of pro 
cedure had been identical. Thus, in the Critique of 
Pure Reason, the fact of cognition being assumed, the 
conditions under which this fact was possible were the 
subject of investigation. In the Critique of Practical 
Reason, the fact of morality being assumed, the condi 
tions under which it was possible were considered ; and 
in the * Critique of Judgment the same query was 
answered with respect to the correspondence of natural 
elements, either to our faculty of cognition, as in esthetic 
judgments, or to the idea of the whole of which they 
are parts, as in the teleological judgment. And, so far as 
religion was concerned, the following results had been 
attained. The theological aspect of religion, ?.e., the 
speculative determination of the existence, properties, 

28 Fichte. 

and modes of action of a supernatural Being, had been 
shown to be without theoretical foundation. In the 
forms of cognition, no theology was possible. But the 
necessary consequences of those conditions under which 
Morality or Eeason. as practical was possible, involved 
the practical acceptance of those very theological prin 
ciples of which no theoretical demonstration could be 
given. The practical postulates of the being of an In 
telligent and Moral Kuler of the world, and of the con 
tinued existence of the rational element in human nature, 
had appeared as necessary for any intelligence conscious 
of itself as Practical or Moral. Through these practical 
postulates a new interpretation was given of the world 
of sense, which no longer appeared as mere material for 
cognitive experience, but as the possible sphere within 
which the moral end of a Practical Eeason might be 
realised. The possibility, then, of a Natural or Eational 
Eeligion, if we employ terms which have unquestionably 
a certain ambiguity, had been sufficiently shown, and the 
place determined which such a religion holds in the 
series of philosophical notions. But, so far, no result 
had appeared bearing upon the possibility of a Eevealed 
Eeligion ; and those fundamental features of human 
nature which historically have always been connected 
with the belief in a revelation, the consciousness of im 
perfection, of sin, of dependence upon Supreme powers, 
apparently found no place in the Kantian scheme. 
Here, then, was an opportunity for the application of 
the critical principles. The possibility of a revelation 
might be investigated in the same fashion as the pos 
sibility of cognition at all ; the form and content of 
any revelation might be determined by an analysis of 

1 Critique of Revelation! 29 

the conditions of its possibility, just as the form and 
content of knowledge had been determined by an analy 
sis of its conditions. A lacuna in the Kantian system 
would thus be filled up. This problem Fichte proposed 
to himself, and his essay in solution of it was sent to 
the author of the Critical Philosophy, not originally for 
purpose of publication, but as proof of ability to handle 
and apply the critical method. Only with the approval 
and by the advice of Kant himself was publication re 
solved upon, and the work revised and prepared for the 
public under the title, An Essay towards a Critique of 
all Revelation ( Versuch einer Kritik aller Offen- 
barung ). 

In form and substance the Critique of Revelation 
is purely Kantian, with here and there an admixture 
of those additional subtleties of distinction in which 
Kantian scholars like Reinhold were already beginning 
to revel. Starting with a somewhat dry and abstract 
treatment of the conditions of moral or practical reason, 
an analysis of the will in its twofold aspect as sensu 
ous impulse and impulse determined by reverence for 
moral law, the Essay summarises briefly the main princi 
ples of the Kantian practical theology, laying stress upon 
the fact that the acceptance of these theological postulates 
is not equivalent to religion, that in so far as reverence 
for the moral law pure and simple is the guiding rule of 
conduct, no room is left for recognition of any binding 
force attaching to such law as the expression of the divine 
moral order. If, however, there should be given in 
human nature a condition of the practical motives such 
that the force of reverence for moral law is weakened, 
then it might be possible that additional strength should 

30 Fichte. 

be given by some indication, otherwise furnished, that 
the moral law is veritably the utterance of the divine 
will. In such a case, the human agent would be con 
strained by reverence for the divine character of the 
moral law, and such constraint is religion as opposed to 
theology. In this condition of human nature is found 
the substratum of fact, in relation to which a revelation 
is conceivable. 

How, then, could the human agent be made aware 
that the moral law is of divine origin 1 Xot, answers 
Ficlitc, through the practical reason itself, for the laws 
of this practical reason are self-explanatory, but only 
through some evidence supplied by the world of sense- 
cognition. Such evidence is not to be looked for in the 
general viow of the sense-world as the sphere within 
which the moral end is to be realised, for this follows 
simply from the existence of the moral law in us, but 
in some fact, which manifests its supernatural origin, 
and so necessitates the conclusion that it Is the direct 
result of the divine activity. A religion basing itself 
upon a supernatural fact manifested in nature is a Re 
vealed Religion, and the conditions of the possibility of 
such a supernatural manifestation are the conditions of 
a Revealed Religion. 

Such a manifestation must needs be an a posteriori 
fact; but in so far as it is simply an a posteriori fact 
.a, so far as the form of the manifestation is concerned 
-it cannot necessitate the conclusion that its origin is 
divine. As regards matter or content, the manifestation 
must be a supernatural revelation of the moml law in 
nature, a revelation possible for an intelligent agent in 
whom sensuous impulses have overbalanced the rever- 

Critique of Revelation! 31 

ence for moral law. By such a revelation moral fooling 
might be, as it wore, awakened or implanted in the 
heart ; for were such feeling absent, no force of reason, 
no play of sense-impulse, could create it. A revelation, 
then, is possible, if the human agent under such circum 
stances can regard certain facts in the world of sense as 
the spontaneous effects of the divine will, and as mani 
festing the moral purpose of the divine will. This in 
terpretation of the manifested fact, which is neither 
reason nor sense, but, as it were, midway between them, 
is the work of Imagination. The individual believes, 
and may believe, that the revealed fact is not explicable 
by natural laws ; but it is impossible for him to prove 
that it is inexplicable by these laws. It is equally im 
possible that scientific proofs should be advanced that 
what happens according to natural laws is altogether 
explicable by them. The laws of the manifestation in 
itself are matters of indifference ; for the revelation is 
only relative, relative to the disturbed or chaotic moral 
condition of the individual human agent. The possi 
bility of a revelation thus rests upon the possibility of 
a particular condition of the moral nature ; and as this 
condition is not in itself necessary, a revealed religion 
cannot be regarded as necessary in the same sense in 
which the forms of thought or the postulates of practical 
reason arc necessary. If there is a revelation at all, 
its contents must coincide with the contents of the 
moral law, and we can judge of any professed revela 
tion according as it does or does not satisfy the criteria 
deducible from these two conditions. It must be made 
to those who are in the morally imperfect state just 
described : it must hold out no offers which are not in 

32 Fichte. 

themselves consistent with pure morality : it must not 
effect its entrance into our thought by means which con 
tain anything beyond the moral principle : it cannot 
give theoretical certainty to those postulated facts which 
follow from the moral law. Revealed religion, then, 
rests upon the possible needs of the human individual 
in the course of his development towards pure morality. 
The belief in such revelation is an element, and an im 
portant element, in the moral education of humanity, 
but it is not a final stage for human thought. 

It is not of interest at the present stage of our sketch 
to consider the worth of the treatment of a difficult pro 
blem here presented by Eichte, for his view of religion 
as a whole became deeper and fuller as his speculation 
slowly worked itself free from much of the Kantian for 
malism. What is remarkable in the Essay is merely the 
strength with which the requirements of pure practical 
reason are held as the criteria for estimating the possi 
bility and the nature of any revealed religion. Fichte, 
even at this stage of his philosophical career, was begin 
ning to lay stress upon the practical side of the Kantian 
system, as yielding tho only complete solution of the 
whole speculative problem. 

There was some difficulty in getting the Essay brought 
before the public. Through Borowski s friendly efforts, 
and by Kant s recommendation, Hartung was induced 
to accept the manuscript, and forwarded it to Hallo 
for printing. It thus became necessary that the work 
should receive the imprimatur of the Halle censor, 
who was Dean of the Theological Faculty. But the 
censor hesitated to give assent to the publication of a 
work in which it was explicitly stated that the divine 

Critique of Revelation 33 

character of a revelation could not rest upon the evi 
dence of a supposed miracle, but wholly upon the nature 
of its contents. Fichte endeavoured, but in vain, to 
get over the difficulty by declaring that his book was 
philosophical, not theological, and therefore stood in no 
need of a theological imprimatur. With his usual res 
oluteness he absolutely declined to accede to the request 
of friendly critics that the offensive passages should be 
expunged, or even to the prudent advice of Kant that 
a distinction should be introduced between dogmatical 
belief, which was not in question, and moral faith or 
religion based on practical grounds ; and, for a time, the 
appearance of the work seemed more than problemati 
cal. Fortunately, at the critical moment a change 
occurred in the censorship of the Theological Faculty 
at Halle. The new dean, Dr Knapp, had no scruples 
in giving his sanction to the publication, and the Essay 
appeared in 1792. By some accident, whether of pub 
lisher or printer does not seem to be known, the author s 
name, and the preface in which he spoke of himself, 
were not given ; and the accident was indeed fortunate 
for Fichte. The literary and philosophic public, long- 
expectant of a work on religion by the author of the 
Critique of Pure Reason, imagined that they found in 
this anonymous essay the clearest evidences of the handi 
work of the great thinker. The Allgemeine Literatur- 
zeitung with bated breath discharged its "duty to the 
public" in communicating to them the substance of "a 
work which, more than any written for a long time, was 
adequate to the deepest wants of the time, and which 
might truly be called a word in season." "Just at the 
moment," the notice proceeds, " when the most varied 
p. iv. c 

34 Fichtc. 

parties in theology are contending with one another, it 
is more particularly of importance that a man pietate, ac 
mentis yravls should come forward, and show to each in 
what they are in error, what they exaggerate, and what 
they assert without foundation. And in what manner 
is this essential task executed ! Assuredly there is to 
be found here much, perhaps all, that the greatest and 
most deservedly famous theologians of all ages have 
uttered regarding revelation; but so closely knit together, 
so thoroughly wrought into unity, so accurately de 
nned and justified does everything appear in this admir 
ably constructed system, that as regards the fundamental 
propositions nothing is left to be desired." The review 
er, after modestly indicating his joy at seeing the 
thoughts which he himself had long excogitated on the 
same subject expressed in so masterly and complete a 
fashion, proceeds to give an extract, with the remark 
that " every one who has made himself acquainted with 
even one work of the great author, here recognisable be 
yond possibility of error," will imagine that much more 
valuable must remain unexcerpted ; and closes with an 
effusion of gratitude to the great man " whose finger is 
everywhere traceable," and who had now placed the 
keystone in the arch of human knowledge. Other crit 
ics were not behind in their notices. The Jena coterie, 
already distinguished as the centre of a progressive 
Kantianism, commented on and discussed the Essay as 
veritably the work of the master, and treatises pro and 
con began to issue from the fruitful German press. 

Kant did not suffer the error to remain long uncor- 
rected. In the number of the Allgemeine Literatur- 
zeitung following that in which the just quoted notice 

Political Pamphlets. 35 

appeared, he published a brief statement, giving the 
name of the author, and expressing respect for his 
ability. It is true that the reviews of the second edition 
of the Essay in the same journal exhibit a remarkable 
difference of tone, but none the less Fichte s literary 
fame was by this occurrence raised at once to a height 
such as years of labour might not have enabled him to 
attain. He was marked out from all the living writers 
on philosophy as the one who seemed able with strength 
and capacity to carry on the great work of Kant. His 
career was determined for him, and all his vague plans 
and projects were now consolidated. Henceforth he was 
a philosopher by profession. 


The success of his literary venture now enabled Fichte 
to think of his marriage as an event no longer to be 
delayed by uncertainty as to his own fortunes. Some 
portion of Hartmann Rahn s property had been saved 
from the general wreck, and in the beginning of 1793 
we learn from his letters to Johanna that at last all 
might be regarded as settled. " In June, or at the 
latest July," he writes from Danzig in the spring of 
1793, "I shall be with thee ; but I should Avish to enter 
the walls of Zurich as thy husband. Is that possible 1 
Thy kind heart will give no hindrance to my wishes ; 
but I do not know the circumstances." The circum 
stances, as it happened, were adverse to his wish. 
Ziirich customs exacted from foreigners proposing to 
marry in that city a certain duration of residence, and it 
was not till the 22d of October that at Baden his mar 
riage with Johanna Rahn took place. A short tour in 

36 Ficlite. 

Switzerland, partly in company with the Danish poet 
Jens Baggesen, is noteworthy as having introduced 
Fichte to the acquaintance, of Pestalozzi, whose educa 
tional ideas were destined to play an important part in 
the after-life of the philosopher. 

During this calmer period of Fichte s life, the great 
events of the French Revolution had been rapidly de 
veloping themselves, and the attention of thinkers as well 
as of the public had been drawn to the principles in 
volved in or endangered by such a mighty movement. 
Rehberg, the secretary to the Hanoverian Privy Council, 
published in 1792 a work entitled Essays on the 
French Revolution/ in which a doubtful and timid view 
was expressed as to its principles, and the worst conse 
quences were predicted as likely to follow from them. 
This book seems to have been the occasioning cause of 
Fichte s anonymous political tracts, the first of which, 
Reclamation of the Freedom of Thought from the 
Princes of Europe, a fiery oratorical piece, was com 
pleted at Danzig. The second and more important, Con 
tributions towards the Correction of the Public Judgment 
on the French Revolution, was begun at Danzig, and 
finished, so far as it went, at Zurich. In both the fun 
damental principle is the same. Defence of the right of 
remodelling constitutional forms is founded on the inde 
feasible and inalienable right to the liberty of realising 
the moral end of humanity, a right which precedes and 
underlies all others. The argument is in substance the 
translation of Rousseau s Contrat Social into the terms 
of the Kantian ethical system ; and as the whole ques 
tion of Right or Law l is intimately connected with the 

1 It is impossible to give any exact single equivalent in English for 

Political Pamphlets. 37 

very essence of Fichte s philosophy, it is well to note 
how, at this comparatively early stage of his philosophic 
development, he expressed himself regarding it. As in 
the case of Kant s * Bechtslehre, so in these essays, the 
notion of an original contract as basis of rights within 
the state, is accepted not as though it expressed historic 
fact, but as the only theoretical foundation for a union 
of intelligent, voluntary beings. Within a community 
founded on such a contract, there are various rights and 
degrees of rights assigned to the several individuals or 
classes. But of those rights, some are inalienable or in 
defeasible, for they express the condition in the absence 
of which the moral law, the supreme rule of conduct, is 
of no effect; others, rights regarding modes of action 
merely permitted, not enjoined by the moral law, are 
alienable, and may be resigned by the individual. Among 
the inalienable rights, that which is all-comprehensive is 
ethical freedom ; but in one acceptation at least, freedom 
concerns not so much external acts as internal thoughts. 
Nevertheless the right to free expression of opinion, to 
free communication of thought, must be pronounced an 
inalienable or indefeasible right, for in its absence the 

the term Rccht, which in different references may mean either law or 
the rights of the individual about which law is concerned, may be 
either an abstract or a collective notion, and may signify either posi 
tive enactments or the ultimate ethical foundation for such enact 
ments. In Fichte s writings a right is the specific mode of action, or 
realisation of a motive in external fact, which is indispensably neces 
sary under the supposition of a common ethical law or supreme ethical 
end. Assuming such moral end, we can point to specific modes of 
action which must be approved by the community, unless violence is 
done to the very notion of ethical law. Alongside of this, however, 
there are riylits which are mere specific modes of action approved by 
the community as a whole, though not indispensable for the realisation 
of the ethical end. 

38 Fwhte. 

possibility for acquiring the materials of thought is de 
stroyed. No spiritual development is possible without 
the free interchange and communication of thought, nor 
is it given to any man or body of men to pronounce on 
the wisdom or goodness of thoughts with such confidence 
as to afford foundation for a supposed right to suppress 
freedom of thought on the ground of possible danger 
from errors of thinking. 1 

The same fundamental principle, that the ultimate 
foundation, and consequently the criterion, of all state 
rights, is to be found in the conditions necessary for the 
realisation of the ethical end, the spiritual development 
towards moral freedom, gives an answer to the more 
complicated problem of the right of revolution. Con 
stitutional forms must needs be alterable ; they cannot 
continuously correspond to the requirements of a devel 
oping moral culture. ~No original contract can be of a 
final nature, can prescribe limits to the moral and legal 
development of a community. The right to state reform 
is inalienable or indefeasible. 

Nevertheless the dissolution of a constitutional form 
implies withdrawal from the original state contract, and 
such withdrawal appears almost in terms to contradict 
the very notion upon which state rights are founded. 2 
Fichte boldly faces this difficulty, contends that in all 
cases withdrawal from contract is possible, and that law 
or justice requires only compensation for such breach of 
pact, not unconditional fulfilment of it. If injury has 

1 Fichte s argument here may be compared with the fuller and more 
concrete treatment of the same problem in J. S. Mill s tract, " On 

2 This contradiction is left as a kind of unsolved problem by Kant 
(see Kechtslehre, 49, Allgemeine Anmerkung, A.) 

Political Pamphlets. 39 

been done by dissolving the contract on which the ex 
isting form of state government rests, let due compensa 
tion in kind and amount be rendered. Now the injury 
may be inflicted on the state itself, or on certain privi 
leged classes in it. So far as the state itself is concerned, 
the only relations of life in respect of which compensa 
tion could be demanded, are those which rest upon or 
are secured by the assistance of the state e.g., rights of 
property or right to development of one s own culture. 
But the smallest consideration enables us to see that 
these rights and relations are prior in nature to state 
arrangements. They do not spring from the state, but 
the state is the mechanism whereby they are protected 
and regulated. No penalty, therefore, can be exacted 
by the state in consequence of the withdrawal of one or 
all of its members from the original contract. These 
dissentient wills may combine and form a state within 
the state : this is the essence of political revolution. 1 

The consideration of the possible injury to privileged 
classes in the state, consequent on revolution, leads 
Fichte, in the second Heft of the Beitnige, into a some 
what elaborate discussion of the origin of privileges in 
general. The principles of social economy involved in 
his treatment are not so distinct as they afterwards be 
came ; and as in dealing with his later writings some 
attention must be paid to them, it is sufficient here to 

1 It is interesting to note that Fichte supports his argument in 
favour of a state within the state, by pointing to examples of such 
dual formations. These are mainly the existence of Jews in a Chris 
tian community, and the existence of a military class. His expres 
sions with regard to the Jews are hardly exceeded in bitterness by any 
of the modern assailants of the Semitic element in Germany. See 
specially Werke,* vol. vi. pp. 150, 151. 

40 Fichtc. 

remark that he subjects to the most trenchant criticism 
the grounds for the privileges of the nobility and the 
Church, absolutely rejects these as theoretically inde 
fensible, and foreshadows the semi -socialist doctrine 
which is worked out in his later politico-economical 
treatises. 1 

These political writings, breathing the warmest enthu 
siasm for the French Revolution, not unnaturally drew 
attention to Fichte. He was marked as a dangerous 
political character, and accused, both at the time and 
afterwards, of democratic tendencies. The influence of 
this feeling regarding his political sympathies is a not 
able fact in all the events of his after-career. As we 
shall see, much of the bitterness that was poured out 
against him at Jena on account of his theological views 
had its root in hatred for his advanced political doctrines. 
In substance the pamphlets are still interesting, both in 
themselves and as indicating the strong practical bent of 
Fichte s thinking ; in form, however, they are somewhat 
hard and pedantic. As in the Critique of Revelation, 
so here, the language is full of Kantian technicalities, 
the structure and progress of the argument are deter 
mined by the abstract forms of the Kantian system. In 
both works, Fichte had advanced to the limits drawn by 
the Critical Philosophy. He was now prepared to push 
beyond them. 

1 Especially the Geschlossene Haudels-staat and the Staatslehre. 




THE winter of 1793 was passed quietly at Ziirich in 
constant meditation over the main problems of the 
Kantian philosophy. Partly by his own reflection, 
partly by the acute criticisms of _Schulz, whose /l^nesi- 
denms had appeared in the preceding year, Eichte had 
begun to see with clearness where the main difficulty of 
the Kantian system lay. The theory of knowledge ex 
pounded in the Critique of Pure Reason, was not, so 
far at least as Kant s own statement extended, a per 
fectly coherent whole ; nor did there appear to be a con 
sistent, logical transition from that theory to the more 
metaphysical notions which came forward in the Cri 
tiques of Practical Reason and of Judgment. Some 
assistance in working into system the parts of the Kant 
ian doctrine was doubtless furnished by Reinhold, but 
with his method Fichto soon became dissatisfied. It 
was for him a necessity that the whole of philosophy 
should manifest a single principle, that the theories of 
knowledge and of practice should be deduced from one 
common source, and that the fundamental notions of 
speculative thought should be developed with systematic 

42 FicUe. 

completeness. In one or two occasional reviews dating 
from this period, and in letters to his friends, he gave 
brief utterance to his convictions on this point ; and, as 
his views grew more matured and definite, he yielded to 
the request of some Zurich acquaintances, and delivered 
during the winter a short course of private lectures on 
philosophy as conceived by him. The formation of his 
speculative doctrines was, however, accelerated by the 
invitation, which reached him in December 1793, to fill 
the post of extraordinary Professor of Philosophy at 
Jena, about to become vacant by the transference of 
Eeinhold to Kiel. Reluctant as Fichte was at first to 
yield immediate assent to this call, he could not refuse 
the opportunity of entering once for all upon the career 
for which he appeared specially marked out, and after 
sending in his acceptance to Privy Councillor Voigt, he 
made arrangements for beginning his course at Jena in 
the Easter term of 1794. 

The University at Jena was then at the very height 
of its renown. ]STo other period, in all its brilliant his 
tory, rivals the first decades of the nineteenth century. 
Above all other universities in Germany it was distin 
guished as the very centre of the most progressive move 
ments in philosophy and literature. The near neigh 
bourhood of Weimar where the most illustrious names 
in the new German literature congregated, where, under 
the genial care of a noble and enlightened prince, arts 
and letters flourished as in a modern Athens gave to it 
additional renown, and secured the most watchful super 
vision over the studies of the university. More espe 
cially, however, was Jena pre-eminent as the university 
in which the new German philosophy had been most 

The Jena Professorship. 43 

eagerly accepted and most fruitfully applied. Schutz, 
known in classical literature for his editions of JEschy- 
lus and Cicero, made it his boast that he had been 
the first to introduce the youth of Jena to the Critical 
Philosophy. Hufeland, an eminent jurist, expounded 
the principles of the Kantian ethics, and his Natur- 
recht is still one of the best expositions of philosophic 
jurisprudence. Reinhold, who by his Letters on the 
Kantian Philosophy had won the approval of the father 
of criticism himself, had begun in 1787, in the chair 
instituted specially for him, the lectures in which he 
endeavoured to improve and further the critical system. 
Schiller, called to the Chair of History in 1789, had 
shown how philosophical principles might be fruitfully 
united with historical research and artistic production. 
Paulus, Loder, Ersch, and Schmid, are names not to be 
forgotten for the services they rendered to the advance 
ment of German thought. Altogether, the University of 
Jena, at the close of the eighteenth century, exhibited a 
degree of life and activity which raised it to the first 
place among the academies of Germany. The history of 
German philosophy, in its brightest period, is in a great 
measure the history of the Jena University. For there 
as teachers we find Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, Fries, 
Krause, and Schlegel; as scholars, Herbart, Schubert, 
Steffens, Solger, Hiilscn, Holderlin, Von Eerger, and 
Oersted. Among the students the fame of their teachers 
was reflected in a peculiarly open and vigorous university 
life. Nowhere was there a freer or more enthusiastic 
academic tone than in Jena, 

The call of Fichte to Jena not, as we learn from 
Goethe, undertaken without some hesitation on the score 

44 Fichte. 

of his pronounced political views was hailed by the 
university with the keenest joy. Of all the adherents 
of Kantianism, he alone had given proofs of ability to 
carry forward and develop the great thoughts that had 
already begun to exert their wonderful influence. " In 
Jena," his friend Bb ttiger writes to him, "there has 
been for some weeks past an indescribable joy over the 
triumvirate of professors due at Easter, for in addition 
to you, there have also been called here the excellent 
Tlgen, probably the most learned and cultured scholar 
in Saxony, as Professor Orientaliwn, and "Woltmann, 
as extraordinary lecturer on History, But your name 
resounds above all, and expectation is strained to its 
utmost doubtless in part because you are regarded as 
the most valiant defender of the rights of men, whereon 
many a son of the Muses has quite peculiar ideas. This, 
however, may easily be put to rights." 

On the 18th May 1794 Fichte arrived in Jena, The 
preceding months had been spent by him in the most 
arduous and careful preparation for his new task. It 
had been impossible, in the short interval allowed him, to 
complete what he had desired to have ready, an exposi 
tion of his philosophic views which might serve as a 
handbook for his prelections ; but as introductory thereto 
he had drawn out and published the short tract, On the 
Notion of the Theory of Knowledge or so-called Philo 
sophy/ 1 giving a preliminary sketch of the fundamental 

1 Ueber den Begriff der Wissenschaftslehre oder der sogenannten 
Philosophic, 1st ed., 1794. The term "Wissenschaftslehre," which 
we here translate by "Theory of Knowledge," will receive more de 
tailed explanation when the nature of Fichte s philosophy is dis 
cussed. As no equivalent in English conveys its meaning with per 
fect accuracy, it will be employed hereafter, without translation, as a 
technical term. 

The Jena Professorship. 45 

ideas to bo embodied in his philosophical lectures. The 
tract is written with wonderful clearness, but its con 
tents amount to little more than the strenuous expression 
of the need for unity of philosophical conception, toge 
ther with certain formal determinations regarding the 
first principle from which philosophical thinking must 
take its start. The somewhat abstract method here em 
ployed was never afterwards followed by Ficlite, and it 
is matter for regret that the general ideas of his system 
have been mainly drawn from this early pamphlet, and 
contain little beyond its formal statements. 

The reception accorded to the philosopher at Jena was 
of the most gratifying kind. As might have been anti 
cipated from Fichte s character, it was his constant aim 
not only to reach the truth in purely metaphysical specu 
lation, but to make philosophic principles living rules of 
action. The tone of his mind was prevailingly practical, 
and it was impossible for him to remain contented with 
mere exposition of speculative doctrines. Accordingly 
he arranged his courses at Jena into two series : the one, 
more elaborate and extended, on philosophy as a whole ; 
the other, shorter and more popular, on the effects of 
philosophic culture in general upon character and life. 
The first course was given to the students of philosophy 
in particular; the second, to which he then gave the 
title of " Ethics of the Scholar," was public, and intended 
for all the members of the academic body. In both 
courses his success was immediate and pronounced. The 
great hall was crowded to overflowing when his public 
lectures were delivered, while the enthusiasm of his phi 
losophic students soon made the technical terms of his 
system familiar words in academic circles and in general 

4G Fichle. 

literature. " Since Reinhold left us," writes Forberg, 
then a privat-docent at Jena, "his philosophy, at least 
among us, is absolutely dead. Every trace of the " Phi 
losophy without Nickname " 1 has been driven from the 
heads of our students. They believe in Fichte as they 
never believed in Reinhold. Doubtless they understand 
him even less than they understood Reinhold, but they 
believe all the more stubbornly for that very reason. 
Ego and non-Ego are now the symbols of the philoso 
phers, as Matter and Form were then. About the right 
which either party has to dissolve a contract, there is 
just as little doubt now, as there was then regarding the 
manifold character of matter." 

To the success of his prelections Fichte s admirable 
philosophic style contributed much. lie had a mar 
vellous faculty of riveting attention, of compelling 
thought to dwell upon the problems presented to it, and 
of evolving in rigid sequence the stages of a complete 
argument or disputation. All his writings bear more 
or less the character of lectures, and probably his own 
mode of speculative reflection was that of the expounder 
conscious of an audience to whom explanations are due, 
rather than that of the pure thinker, intent on nothing 
but the notions before him. He was a born orator, and, 
as we have already seen in his early life, sedulously cul 
tivated the oratorical faculty as that wherewith he could 
best attain his great end, the elevation of life. His 
personality, further, combining strength and obstinacy 

1 "Philosophic ohne Beinamen," as Keinhold was pleased to call 
his rather washed-out reproduction of Kantianism, in order to indi 
cate that it was neither critical nor dogmatic nor sceptical, but philo 
sophy simply. 

The Jena Professorship. 47 

with the loftiest moral principle, found its most adequate 
expression, and was capable of its most powerful influ 
ence, in oratorical efforts rather than in systematic ex 
position. In Fichte, as in Schelling, and generally in 
the writers of the Romantic period, what the historian 
of philosophy notes as their prevailing characteristic is a 
certain hot-headed impetuosity and impatience, which 
contrasts unfavourably witli the calm matureness of their 
great predecessor Kant, and which almost inevitably 
leads to a slight distrust of, or dissatisfaction with, their 
work. Something of this distrust, as we shall see later, 
was felt by Kant himself, who always disliked and de 
preciated Geme-schwiinge, flights of genius, and trusted 
rather to solid, patient, methodical work, than to the 
efforts of enthusiastic imagination. 

The Jena period of Fichte s life may be conveniently 
regarded under two quite distinct aspects. It presents 
to us, in the first place, a series of developments of 
one speculative principle, covering the whole ground 
of philosophy, affecting by their spirit and method all 
contemporary criticism and literature, and bringing the 
author into close connection, whether friendly or polemi 
cal, with the greatest living writers. In this sense, it is 
simply the representation of the active results of Fichte s 
speculative faculty. But speculative faculty was only 
one side of Fichte s character, and when we consider 
the several incidents of public life which mark the Jena 
career, we find rather the development of the more im 
petuous temper which so frequently in the course of his 
life led to unfortunate collisions with his surroundings. 
The philosophical and the practical activity may thus be 
regarded apart from one another. 

48 F ichte. 

As respects the first, a brief notice of the successive 
works in which the new speculative system was laid be 
fore the world, will here suffice. The lectures on 
Wissenschaftslehre, delivered to his private class 
during the first semester at the university, were printed 
in sheets as soon as delivered, and from these sheets 
was formed the first systematic exposition of the new 
doctrine, Foundations of the whole Wissenschaftslehre 
( Grundlage der gesammten Wissenschaftslehre, 1st ed., 
1794). The whole field of philosophical cognition, 
theoretical and practical, was surveyed in this work ; 
but Eichte remained unsatisfied with the method pur 
sued, and in his later, more mature writings, never em 
ploys the abstract forms which are here brought forward, 
and which have been falsely thought to be essential 
elements in his system. In quick succession he put 
forward detailed expositions of the several portions 
briefly discussed in the Grundlage. 7 The theoretical 
faculty of cognition was specially handled in the Out 
line of what is peculiar to Wissenschaftslehre (1795); 
the practical side of consciousness in the two important 
treatises, Theory of Natural Law ( Grundlage des Natur- 
rechts, 1796-97) and Theory of Morals ( System der 
Sittenlehre, 1798); while the whole philosophy was 
expounded in a fresh form in the Introductions to 
Wissenschaftslehre, published in the Philosophical 
Journal/ vols. v. and vi. (1797), and in the Essay to 
wards a New Exposition of the Wissenschaftslehre, vol. 
vii. of the same periodical. These writings, taken in 
conjunction with the important Eeview of ^Eneside- 
mus (1794), make up the philosophy of Fi elite in its 
so-called earlier form. 

TJie Jena Professorship. 49 

A wonderful impression seems to have been made 
upon his contemporaries by the boldness and systematic 
completeness of Fichte s speculation. Goethe, little 
disposed to abstract thinking, and probably in his heart 
of hearts not over well disposed towards an eager politi 
cal theorist, yet found " nothing in the first sheets of the 
Wissenschaftslehre which he did not understand, or at 
least thought he understood, nothing which did not 
harmonise with his own mode of thinking about things," 
laboured hard to keep pace with the New Expositions 
of the prolific author, and in general extended to the 
metaphysician a cordial and respectful admiration. 
With Schiller, whose Kantian sympathies might have 
led to a warmer interest in pure speculation, Fichte 
never seems to have been on terms of unqualified friend 
ship. Despite the mutual esteem which they enter 
tained for one another, their characters were too pro 
nounced to admit of perfectly unclouded harmony ; and, 
philosophically, there was a divergence between their 
views which, on one occasion at least, led to an unfor 
tunate collision between them. Fichte, who had been 
invited to contribute to the Horen, then edited by 
Schiller, forwarded for this periodical an Essay On 
Spirit and Letter, in which the editor fancied that he 
could detect a parody of his own Letters 011 the Es 
thetic Education of the Human Eace. The parody ex 
isted only in Schiller s over-sensitive imagination, but a 
somewhat bitter correspondence followed his suppression 
of the paper. Reconciliation was effected; but, if we 
may judge from the tone of the communications which 
passed between Goethe and Schiller at a later date re 
garding Fichte s academic troubles, a secret distrust 

P. IV. D 

50 Fickte. 

and dislike continued to exist. With his philosophic 
contemporaries Fichte s relations were of even greater 
interest. His increasing fame naturally attracted both 
adherents and enemies. The older Kantian scholars 
bitterly criticised the new effort after a completeness 
of system which had been foreign to Kant s original 
method. The younger and more impetuous philosophic 
students, among others Niethammer, Forberg, and 
Schelling, with equal bitterness accused their more 
cautious predecessors of want of faith in their own prin 
ciples, and declared that Criticism proper had been but 
a propcedeutic or introduction, to which the Wissen- 
schaftslehre was the natural and necessary supplement. 
The antagonists of all the newer philosophy, pre-emin 
ently Kicolai, the editor of the Deutsche Bibliothek, 
eagerly hailed the controversy as furnishing evidence of 
the empty and contradictory character, and of the evil 
tendencies, of the so-called metaphysics. With Kant 
himself, Fichte s relations gradually became hostile, 
though no open declaration was made by the aged 
philosopher until he had been, alarmed by the accusa 
tions of atheism brought against a system which pro 
fessed to be a development of his own principles. It 
does not appear that he had ever fairly entered into the 
spirit of Fichte s works, probably he had not even 
studied them ; but in the Intelligence sheet of the 
Allgemeine Literaturzeitung for 1799, No. 109, he 
published a formal disclaimer of any connection between 
his OAvn system and that of Fichte, declaring that the 
Wisseiischaftslehre was nothing but abstract logic, 
valuable therefore as methodising thought, but contain 
ing no reference to reality, and bitterly resenting the de- 

The Jena Professorship. 51 

scription of his own critical work as mere propaedeutic to 
a system of reasoned philosophy. Fichte s rejoinder, 
published in the same paper in the form of a letter to 
Schelling, was pointed and severe. He rightly drew 
attention to Kant s frank admission that his disclaimer 
was personal in character, and not founded on thorough 
appreciation of the new philosophic work, and indicated 
that from Kant s position it was not unnatural that he 
should regard the Critique as final, just as his oppon 
ents thought the Critique a worthless and unnecessary 
attempt to transcend the well-defined and sure limits of 
the earlier systems. 1 

Kant s disclaimer came too late to be of any service 
in checking the rapid current of speculation which had 
its source in his own writings. Reinhold, a weak and 
vacillating thinker, had given his complete adhesion to 
the "Wissenscliaftslehre ; the Jena Allgemeine Liter- 
aturzeitung, once the organ of the Kantians, declared 
for Fichte; and in the Philosophisches Journal, of 
which Fichte was co-editor with Niethammer from 1795 
onwards, the new school possessed an official organ of 
their own. Schelling s early works gave in fresh and 
attractive form expositions of the Wissenschaftslehre, 
applied its principles to the more profound problems of 
metaphysics, and called attention to the advance effected 
on the critical position. Even Jacobi, strongly opposed 
as he was to any demonstrative or theoretical meta- 
physic, was not proof against the attraction of the new 

1 The letters between Fichte and Schelling on the subject of Kant s 
declaration ( Leben und Brief wechsel, vol. ii. pp. 301-308) are of 
great interest, as indicating their views on the relation between the 
Critique and Fichte s Wissenschaftslehre. 

52 Fichte. 

system, or its apparent coincidence with his own views. 
His correspondence with Fichte is of the highest inter 
est, as throwing light on the philosophical and personal 
relations of two eminent thinkers ; and although he 
could not bring himself to see the similarity between 
the Wissenschaf tslehre and his own doctrines, on 
which Fichte laid so much stress, it was not till the 
accusation of atheism had been brought against the 
Fichtean system that he declared himself against it. On 
the whole, during the important period from 1794 to 
1799, the philosophy of Fichte was in the ascendant. 
It gave a new impetus and direction to speculative 
thought, and powerfully influenced contemporary litera 
ture of a non-philosophical kind. If we can discover 
philosophical principles at all in the literary productions 
of the earlier Romantic school, in the writings of Tieck, 
Nbvalis, and Fr. Schlegel, these bear unmistakably the 
impress of the Fichtean system. Doubtless, this sec 
ondary effect of Fichte s philosophy gave additional 
strength to the feeling gradually roused against it. 

When we turn to the consideration of Fichte s public 
life, his professorial career, during the same period, we 
find a series of troubles and conflicts, terminating in the 
severance of his connection with the University of Jena. 
Minor annoyances were not wanting to him, even on his 
entrance upon his public duties as professor. With his 
colleague, C. C. E. Schmid, an excellent empirical psy 
chologist but a poor philosopher, his relations had been 
hostile even before the call to Jena, and though friend 
ship appeared to be established between them, the truce 
was not of long duration. In the third volume of the 
* Philosophisches Journal, Schmid gave utterance to a 

The Jena Professorship. 53 

critical judgment respecting all philosophy which pre 
sumed to go beyond the facts of experience, and in such 
fashion as to indicate that he had in view the Wissen- 
schaftslehre. In the last number of the same volume 
Fichte compared Herr Schmid s system with his own ; 
distinguished with the utmost clearness the problem of 
psychology from that of transcendental logic ; showed 
that of the nature of this second problem Schmid had 
no conception whatsoever; and ended with the declara 
tion that henceforth not only everything uttered by 
Herr Schmid against the l Wissenschaftslehre should be 
held by him as non-existent, but also that Herr Schmid 
himself, in his capacity of philosopher, should be viewed 
as a nonentity. This satisfactory result certainly could 
not contribute to render Fichte s position easier ; it is, 
indeed, only one specimen of the unyielding temper 
which he throughout displayed in all the actions of his 
life, and which created enemies for him in all quarters. 

Even in his first semester, Fichte found that his evil 
political reputation was productive of discomfort. Some 
doubts appear to have been raised regarding the public 
lectures already alluded to, and in self-defence he pub 
lished a selection from them. 1 Of the nature of these 
complaints we have no accurate information, but the 
course of public lectures presently led to a more serious 
trouble. In the winter semester, 1794-95, Fichte found 
that no hour during the ordinary week-days could be 
selected for lectures open to all the students of the uni- 

1 These appear in the sixth volume of the Werke, under the title 
Einige Vorlesungen liber die Bestimmung des Gelehrten ( Some 
Lectures on the Vocation of the Scholar ). They are more formal 
than the lectures under a similar title delivered at Erlaugen hi 1805. 

54 Fichte. 

versity, without interfering with the class arrangements 
of his colleagues. After consultation with Schiitz, ho 
announced the lectures for Sunday mornings, between 
10 and 11 A.M., thereby avoiding collision either with 
the special service held for university students or with 
the general public church service. Hardly had this been 
done when the Consistory of Jena raised an outcry 
against him for endeavouring to suppress the public ser 
vice of God ; the Over-Consistory, of which Herder was 
a member, repeated the cry, and appealed to the Govern 
ment at Weimar; while a malicious journal, Euda- 
monia, which scattered its mud with rare impartiality, 
called attention to the connection between atheism and 
revolutionary politics, and boldly asserted that the demo 
crats, under the leadership of Professor Fichte, were 
making a deliberate attempt to institute the worship of 
reason. The lectures were temporarily suspended, and 
the senate of the university, after a bitter discussion, in 
which, strong opposition was raised to Fichte on grounds 
manifestly personal, forwarded to the Government a 
statement of their reasons for holding that the Sunday lec 
tures in no way infringed customary rules, recommending 
at the same time that the hour selected should be in 
the afternoon. The Weimar council gave its decision 
in favour of Fichte, absolved him from all blame in the 
matter, but significantly cautioned him to be more pru 
dent in the future. The lectures were continued from 
February onwards at three in the afternoon. 

This first trouble was scarcely at an end when a new 
storm broke out. Fichte s constant aim as a public 
teacher was the moral elevation of the character of the 
students. The life of a scholar appeared to him a life 

The Jena Professorship. 55 

with a noble end, and weighted with responsibilities. 
But to all his efforts towards elevating and purifying the 
tone of academic life, a blank wall of resistance was 
presented by the existence of the so-called Orders or 
Societies among the students. These orders had their 
own code of morals, and their own regulations for public 
and private action. One can well understand how en 
tirely all individuality of life and action was destroyed 
for the student who had enrolled himself in one of these 
societies. He could not escape the force of the general 
judgment, and was driven, by virtue of his relations to 
the other members, to assent to much that would have 
been abhorrent to him in his private capacity. Fichte 
felt very keenly the evil consequences of the secret 
unions, and, both by his public lectures and by private 
communications, strove to effect their abolition. It 
was a wonderful evidence of his personal influence 
that in the winter of 1794-95, the three orders of 
the Jena students made overtures to him regarding the 
suppression of their societies, and by their deputies 
requested him to give and receive their oaths of dissolu 
tion. Fichte did not feel that he was entitled to con 
clude the matter on his own responsibility, referred 
them to the pro-rector, and, unfortunately, undertook the 
task of mediating between the students and the uni 
versity authorities, a task for which he was eminently 
unfitted. Partly from Fichte s unpractical and over- 
pedantic fashion of carrying on the affair, partly from 
the natural dilatoriness of a government, especially of a 
university government, the happy moment was allowed 
to pass. One of the orders withdrew its offer ; the 
others, who had placed their books of regulations and 

56 Fichte. 

names in Fichte s hands, were alarmed at the idea of a 
Government inquisition into their doings, and began to 
think that Fichte was playing them false. An inde 
scribable tumult was occasioned in the university. The 
students attacked Fichte s house on the ISTew Year s 
night of 1795, broke his windows, and insulted him 
with cries and hootings. His public lectures were inter 
rupted, his wife was saluted with insults in the streets ; 
and so serious did the danger appear, that in the spring 
of 1795 he had to demand protection from the Govern 
ment, and finally, permission to reside out of Jena for 
the summer of that year. The great JEgo, as Goethe 
and Schiller call him in their letters, took up his resi 
dence at Ossmanstadt, a pleasant little town a few miles 
from Jena, and there remained until the storm had 
blown over. 

Two waves of trouble had thus disturbed Fichte s 
public career at Jena ; the third and greatest finally dis 
solved his connection with that university. In 1798, 
Forberg, then rector at Saalfeld, and already noted as 
one of the earliest adherents of the Wissenschaftslehre, 
sent in to the editors of the Philosophisches Journal 
a paper entitled " Development of the Xotion of Reli 
gion." With the argument, and in particular with the 
tone of this essay, Fichte was but little satisfied, al 
though it was impossible for him to avoid agreeing with 
some ideas in it. He was extremely unwilling to exer 
cise the editorial right of suppressing the paper, but 
desired to attach to it certain footnotes, correcting or 
amending it in accordance with what he thought the 
truth. Of this, however, Forberg would not hear, and 
Fichte printed the essay as it had been sent, prefixing 

The Jena Professorship. 57 

to it a short exposition of his own views on the same 
subject, under the title, " On the Ground for our Belief 
in a Divine Government of the Universe." The two 
papers appeared together in the first part of the eighth 
volume of the Journal. It was certainly a misfortune 
for Fichte that the published exposition of his views on 
so fundamental a question should have been limited to 
the points discussed in Forberg s essay, for, to one who 
now studies these documents, that essay has every ap 
pearance of insincerity or irony. Accepting without 
reservation the Kantian criticism of the theoretical 
proofs for the existence of God, Forberg likewise accepts 
the doctrine that the belief in a divine order is prac 
tical, but he reduces this practical belief to mere strength 
of moral feeling, identifies it with virtue, and therefore 
draws the conclusion that it is perfectly compatible with 
speculative atheism. In short, the essay is an exagger 
ation of the dismal rationalism into which the weaker 
Kantians drifted, and by which they cast such discredit 
on philosophy. It is almost a parody of the moderatism 
which had begun to appear as the result of the Kantian 
system in works such as those of Tieftrunk and Hey- 
denreich. The element of speculative interest in the 
critical philosophy, however, which was entirely over 
looked or reduced to a nullity by Forberg, was precisely 
that upon which Fichte laid stress. His essay, there 
fore, exaggerated the agreement between his views 
and those of Forberg, and gave too succinctly the 
characteristic difference. 

Attention was drawn to the papers by an anonymous 
pamphlet, circulated gratuitously throughout Saxony 
towards the close of the year 1798, arid purporting to be 

58 Mckte. 

a Letter on the Atheism of Ficlite and Forberg, from a 
Father to his Son, a Student. Neither name of pub 
lisher nor place of publication was given, and it was 
more than hinted to those who accepted the tract, that 
it was the work of Gabler, a theologian of some repute 
in Altdorf. Gabler, however, was not the author, and 
protested publicly against the insult done him by such a 
statement. The real author has never been known, and 
the tract itself was a malicious and unfair selection of 
certain sentences from the essays of the accused writers, 
Without reference to the context, and with such com 
ments as unenlightened pietism has always indulged in. 
Moved by this pamphlet, the Over-Consistory of Dres 
den brought the subject before the Saxon Government, 
who, on the 19th November 1798 published a Rescript 
directed to the Universities of Leipzig and Wittenberg, 
confiscating the * Philosophisches Journal on the ground 
of the atheistic utterances contained in it. The Rescript 
was followed by a circular note, addressed to the neigh 
bouring German Governments, praying them to take 
similar steps, and, in the case of the Saxe- Weimar 
Dukes, threatening to prohibit Saxon students from at 
tendance at the Jena University if investigation were 
not instantly made into the conduct of the accused pro 
fessors, and condign punishment inflicted were they found 
guilty of the charge laid against them. Fichte had thus 
a twofold charge to deal with, the public accusation of 
atheism, and the private appeal to the supreme authori 
ties of the university. To the first he replied in his 
Appeal to the Public against the Accusation of Athe 
ism, a copy of which was forwarded in January 1799 to 
the Grand Duke of Weimar; to the second, in the 

The Jena Professorship. 59 

Formal Defence of the Editor of the Philosophical 
Journal against the Accusation of Atheism, 1 directed to 
the Pro-rector of the University, and forwarded to the 
Grand Duke in March 1799. In the Appeal, a more 
detailed exposition was given of the views contained in 
the accused essay, and a powerful contrast was drawn be 
tween philosophical religion and the ordinary theology ; 
in the Defence, a skilful analysis of the full bearing 
of his theological doctrines precedes a bold statement 
of the real motives which had led to the accusation, and 
a demand that in the interests of university freedom, 
decision should be given based solely on the merits of 
the question. In the most unqualified fashion Fichte 
declares that the true secret of the enmity against him 
was the dread of his political opinions, and insists that 
the decision of the matter was of the last importance, 
not only for his own activity as a professor, but for 
the academic life of the university. 

In order to understand the course of events, it is 
needful to review carefully the position of the two 
parties, Fichte on the one hand, the Saxe-Weimar Gov 
ernment on the other. Fichte s motives are clear and 
unambiguous. He claimed the full right of expound 
ing his philosophic opinions, a right essential to the 
very existence of a university teacher. He felt, as every 
teacher of philosophy must feel, that the results of 
speculative analysis will at times appear to conflict 
with popular ideas, founded for the most part on unre- 

1 The title of this pamphlet, Gerichtliche Verantwortvmgs- 
schrift, would be more exactly translated as Judicial Defence or 
Plea in Justin cation. " Gerichtlich " implies that the defence was 
explicitly directed to a court, by whom decision on the merits of the 
case should be given. 

60 Fichte. 

fleeting custom or on radical error, and that if popular 
opinion is to be the criterion of judgment, the function 
of an investigator is destroyed. Accordingly he de 
manded, with all the earnestness that the importance of 
the matter required, and with all the vehemence that 
his impatient disposition rendered natural, that there 
should be no compromise; that the matter should not be 
hushed up, or conducted to its conclusion by private 
negotiations within the university circle ; and that as the 
accusation had been public, the decision should be public 
also. On the other hand, what the university authorities 
above all things desired was a mode of settlement where 
by peace might be secured without the necessity of any 
public declaration. They in no way desired to limit 
the freedom of teaching in the university ; and as the 
necessity for taking cognisance of the matter at all had 
been forced upon them from without, they wished to 
deal with it in such a way as neither to offend external 
powers nor endanger their own position. It will be 
readily understood, therefore, that Eichte s movements 
caused them the greatest trouble and annoyance. In a 
letter of Schiller to Fichte, written after the Grand- 
Duke had received the Appeal to the Public, the feel 
ings of the court-party are expressed without reserve. 
That their intentions were friendly is stated without qua 
lification. " I have had an opportunity," says Schiller, 
" of conversing recently with those who have a voice in 
the affair, and on various occasions with the Grand-Duke 
himself. He openly declared that nothing would or 
could be done to limit your freedom of writing, though 
doubtless there were some things that one would rather 
not have stated from the professorial chair. Even as 

The Jena Professorship. 61 

regards the latter point, however, this is but his private 
opinion ; his public judgment would impose no limita 
tions even in respect of it." But as Schiller goes on to 
say, the Weimar authorities regretted that he had en 
gaged in discussion of the matter on his own account, 
and had appealed to the public, when his business lay 
solely with them. Evidently in such a state of opinion the 
Formal Defence was a most embarrassing document, and 
from the expressions of all Fichte s friends regarding it, 
we can see that they unanimously thought him grossly 
imprudent. Rumours of all kinds were prevalent, and 
gradually took form in the report that the Weimar 
Government intended to impose a censure upon Fichte, 
which, as coming through the academic senate, must 
needs be of a public character. 

It was apparently under the influence of this rumour 
that Fichte was induced to take a step which he after 
wards consistently defended, but which must be pro 
nounced nothing less than unfortunate. On the 22d 
March 1799 he wrote an important letter to the Privy 
Councillor Voigt, explicitly leaving to the discretion of 
his correspondent either to employ it further, or to accept 
it as an aid in forming his own opinions. In this letter he 
declared unreservedly that he neither would nor could 
submit to censure given through the senate. Were 
such to be imposed, no course would be left to him but 
to reply by sending in his resignation and publishing the 
present letter in explanation of his motives. The letter 
concluded with the statement, that many important mem 
bers of the university agreed in the view that censure 
on the writer would be infringement of their academic 
rights ; that the same members had engaged, were he to 

62 FicUe. 

resign, to resign with him, and had permitted him to 
notify their intention. With him, Fichte added, they 
looked forward to find in a new university, of which 
there was rumour, a free and honourable sphere of action, 
such as they had hitherto enjoyed in Jena. 

The new university referred to was doubtless that 
projected at Mainz, regarding which Jung, the chief of the 
council of Mainz, had been in communication with Fichte 
during the preceding year, and rumours of which had 
been alluded to by Forberg. The plan was never real 
ised, and the colleagues who had given their promise 
to Fichte did not redeem it. Paulus, indeed, to whom 
the letter had been submitted, by whose mediation it 
was forwarded to Yoigt, and who is explicitly included 
by Fichte among the said colleagues, afterwards declared 
that the engagement existed only in Fichte s imagina 
tion ; but on a point like this the statements of Paulus 
are worthless. 

It was this letter that finally decided the "Weimar 
Government, and the member of the council whose 
warmth overcame all hesitation regarding the action to 
be taken was Goethe. His conservative feelings were 
roused by the apparent endeavour to threaten the Gov 
ernment. "For my own part," he wrote to Schlosser 
some months later, " I declare that I would have voted 
against my own son, if he had permitted himself such 
language against a Government." The Rescript of the 
Weimar authorities, dated 29th March 1799, desired 
the senate to censure Professors Fichte and Niethammer 
for their indiscretion, and to recommend to them greater 
caution in bringing essays before the public. But to 
this gentle censure there was appended a post-scriptum 

The Jena Professorship. 63 

referring to the letter to Yoigt, accepting Fichte s dec 
laration that he would resign, and thereby dismissing 
him from his office. 

Again the unfortunate advice of Paulus prevailed on 
Fichte, and induced him to make a false step. Fichte 
himself was of opinion that the letter to Voigt should 
not have been regarded as an official document that, 
even had it this official character, it should have been 
left to him to take the final step of resignation ; and, 
more particularly, that it ought to have been considered 
whether the condition under which he had declared 
resignation inevitable was fulfilled by the Rescript of 
the Government. Under these circumstances, when, 
through the intercession of his friends, it had been 
arranged that the publication of the JRescrijrt should be 
delayed for a few days, he was persuaded to forward 
through Paulus a second letter to Yoigt, in which he 
pointed out that as the censure imposed in no way limited 
his freedom of teaching, it did not render the resignation 
of his office imperative, and that he would not allow the 
public to think that he had voluntarily laid down his 
office on account of this censure. The letter was com 
municated by Yoigt to the Grand-Duke, who found 
"nothing in it to cause him to alter his expressed 
opinion." Nor did two numerously signed petitions 
from the students, first to prevent the dismissal and 
then to obtain the recall of their honoured teacher, alter 
the position of affairs. 

Thus Fichte s connection with Jena came to a violent 
termination. As regards the rights of so complicated a 
matter, there is little ground for difference of opinion. 
Had not Fichte s impatient temper betrayed him into 

64 Fickte. 

the strong expressions contained in the first letter to 
Voigt, all might have been well, for the Weimar Gov 
ernment, despite their indignation at his impetuous mode 
of dealing with the matter, evidently desired to retain 
him in the university. But they erred in making such 
use as they did of the letter, and they erred doubly in 
the infliction of so serious a wound on the academic 
life of Jena. For many years the effect was felt ; and as 
Goethe himself notes, within a comparatively short in 
terval all the most eminent teachers had, for one cause 
or another, migrated to other universities : Paulus, Loder, 
both the Hufelands, Ilgen, Schelling, and Methammer 
vanished from Jena. No injury is so great to a univer 
sity as a limitation in the freedom of academic teaching. 
No mistake is so serious as to deal in diplomatic and 
politic fashion with matters of thought and reasoning. 




THE expulsion from Jena, and the sudden termination of 
his public career as an academic teacher, exercised a 
powerful influence not only upon Fichte s external for 
tunes, but upon the development of his philosophic 
system. The difficulties which had been raised regard 
ing his utterances on the supreme philosophic doctrine, 
the being of God and the nature of His relation to the 
individual thinking subject, compelled his attention to 
that aspect of his system in which it was as yet imper 
fect or incomplete. From this time onwards the TTis- 
senschaftslehre, as it had been expounded in the works 
already before the world, began to be incorporated in a 
wider view of character prevailingly theological or even 
theosophical. The whole tone or manner of treatment 
was at the same time altered ; and Fichte, who seemed 
ever to feel that it was next to impossible to present his 
system in such a form as to be free from all ambiguity 
or danger of misconception, entered upon a series of 
popular expositions of his philosophy, which later 
writers have had some difficulty in reconciling with the 
results of his earlier method. A more precise account 
p. iv. E 

66 Fichte. 

of the relations between the earlier and later forms of 
his philosophic doctrines will be given when the whole 
system is reviewed ; but it is important to note here, as 
in the case of the Critique of Eevelation, a turning- 
point in Fichte s career. 

At Jena Fichte found it impossible even to continue 
in residence : all prospect of literary activity there was 
excluded by the Rescript of the Saxon Electorate. Nor 
was it easy for him to find any refuge. The majority of 
the smaller states in the surrounding district had pass 
ively acquiesced in the Saxon mandate : even from the 
little princedom of Rudolstadt, where he had hoped to 
secure a quiet retreat, he was excluded by the jealous 
surveillance of his antagonists. The intense excitement 
which had been roused by the discussions preceding his 
dismissal from Jena had spread far and wide, and if we 
may judge from his own expressions, his personal safety, 
in many quarters, was more than problematical. In this 
uncertainty a slight accident determined his conduct. 
The Prussian minister Dohm, passing through Weimar, 
spent a few days at Jena, and, as was natural, conversed 
with friends regarding Fichte s case. The indignation 
he expressed at the treatment to which Fichte had been 
subjected was coupled with the significant remark that 
in Prussia no such calamities were to be dreaded by 
thinkers who could prove themselves good and worthy 
citizens. Fichte, acting upon the hint communicated 
to him, wrote to his friend, Friedrich Schlegel, then 
residing in Berlin, and was by him assured that if he 
could make his way to that city in such a fashion as not 
to attract undue attention, and could time his arrival so 
as to have his case brought speedily before the King of 

Friends at Berlin. 67 

Prussia, no hindrance need be feared. Following this 
advice, Fichte, in the early days of July 1799, suddenly 
left Jena, under pretext of taking a journey for recovery 
of his health, and travelled to Berlin. A few police 
inquiries were easily satisfied, and when the matter was 
brought under the royal notice, it was disposed of in the 
briefest fashion. " If," said the easy-tempered monarch, 
"Fichte is so peaceful a citizen, and so free from all 
dangerous associations as he is said to be, I willingly 
accord him a residence in my dominions." As for his 
religious views, these were dismissed in a somewhat 
clumsy paraphrase of Tiberius s pithy saying, " Deorum 
offensa diis curce." 



Warmly received by Schlegel, and introduced by him 
to the circle of friends centring mainly round Schleier- 
macher, Fichte, with his accustomed impetuosity, at 
once began to form new and extensive plans for literary 
work. It appeared to him that his narrow means would 
prove more than sufficient if he and his family could 
unite with the Schlegels and with Schelling in forming 
a common domicile. Against the feasibility of this 
scheme there was doubtless to be placed the unpleasing 
relations of Friedrich Schlegel with Dorothea Veit, who 
had by this time separated from her husband and thrown 
in her lot with Schlegel, and it is evident from Fichte s 
letters to his wife that he had much to do to reconcile 
her to the proposal. At the same time he contemplated 
the foundation, also in concert with the above-named 
friends, of a comprehensive literary journal, which should 

68 FicUe. 

apply freely and boldly the principles of the new philo 
sophy. There seemed to be need of some such organ, 
for the Jena Allgemeine Literaturzeitung, formerly 
devoted to the Fichtean ideas, was beginning to waver 
in its allegiance, and Nicolai, in the Neue Allgemeine 
Bibliothek, and in many a dreary satire, was prose 
cuting, after his antiquated fashion, his favourite war 
fare against every novelty in literature or philosophy. 
Fichte, however, had deceived himself regarding his 
relations to his new friends. There were elements pre 
sent which rapidly led to discord and even to the bit 
terest animosity. The years from 1799 to 1806 are 
characterised by the gradual overshadowing of the 
Fichtean philosophy, and by the development of hitherto 
unsuspected differences of view in the circle over which 
that philosophy had been supreme. To understand fully 
the movements of this period a period of painful interest 
to the historian of literature it is necessary to note with 
some care what were the main currents of thought and 
the general conditions of life at Berlin. We shall find 
in their nature the key to much of Fichte s later work. 

Under Frederick the Great, Berlin had risen rapidly 
from a position of provincial obscurity to the rank of 
capital city in an important kingdom, and had gradually 
become the centre of the comparatively small intellectual 
life of Prussia. But the same events which had given 
it importance had contributed to its corruption. The 
manners of the Court in the time of Frederick, the open 
devotion of that monarch to the French " Illumination," 
the severance which his strong government caused be 
tween the interests of the individual subject and the 
wider aims of political and civic life, had combined to 

Berlin Society. 69 

give a quite peculiar character to the society of Berlin. 
It is scarcely possible to imagine a state of greater or 
more deeply seated social corruption than that presented 
by Berlin in the last two decades of the eighteenth 
century. The strong national feeling which had at 
least been fostered by the power of Frederick seemed to 
die out under the feeble and vacillating policy of his 
successor, and showed no signs of revival in any of the 
smaller states, where intense selfishness prevented any 
united action against a common enemy The corroding 
influence of the narrow rationalism which had long been 
preached by Nicolai and his coadjutors Engel and 
Abbt, left nothing which could resist the impulse of 
the new romantic principle rapidly acquiring dominion 
over the younger and more impetuous spirits in Ger 
many, Life, divested of all permanent or general 
interests, lends itself readily to the sway of mere ima 
ginative passion; and in the gospel of Tieck and Fr. 
Schlegel, only that seemed good which commended 
itself to the sentimental longings of the individual, 
while social relations appeared as mere hindrances to 
the pure poetic development of human fantasy. 1 As 
might be anticipated from the subjection of thought and 
action to mere sentimental imaginative longings, the 
influence of women began to be the most prominent 

1 The very essence of this mode of thought is expressed in the 
definition of the Romantic principle !>y F. Schlegel, in his Ge- 
spriich iiLer die Poesie (1800) : "That is romantic which expresses 
matter of sentiment (feeling) in fantastic form i.e., in a form deter 
mined throughout by imagination only." The most thorough treat 
ments of the Romantic school are those of Hettner, Die Romantische 
Schule (1850) ; Brandes, Hauptstrb mungen der Literatur des 19ten 
Jahrhunderts, Bd. II. (1873); Haym, Die Romantische Schule 

70 Fichte. 

feature in society. In Berlin, as in Weimar, the leaders 
and directors of the new romantic school were in truth 
the women who stood in such close and ambiguous 
relation to the better-known men of letters. Henrietta 
Herz, Dorothea Veit, and Karoline Schelling, were the 
most potent factors in the disturbed chaotic movements 
of the literature of the time ; and the dismal quarrellings 
and bickerings of men like Schlegel, Schleiermacher, and 
Schelling, can only be understood when their relations 
to these leaders are taken into account. 

Thus, when .Fichte entered Berlin society, there ap 
peared, as the two most important currents of thinking, 
the old rationalistic tendency, with at least a substratum 
of solid political feeling, represented by Nicolai, and 
the new romantic literature, of which the manifesto had 
just been made in Schlegel s Lucinde. At first, and 
naturally, he was attracted towards the party with whom 
for some time he had been in sympathy, and whose 
principles had at least a superficial resemblance to the 
main ideas of his philosophical system ; but it was not 
long* before the radical difference in their views made 
itself apparent. In the first glow of friendship he 
yielded ready assent to the plan suggested by F. 
Schlegel of taking up residence with him, and of calling 
to their community A. W. Schlegel and Schelling. But 
it soon became evident that such a plan was impracti 
cable, partly because Fichte s strong ethical personality 
was in itself repulsive to the Schlegels, partly because 
of the open antipathy between Dorothea Veit and the 
wife of A. W. Schlegel, the celebrated Karoline, married, 
after her divorce from Schlegel, to Schelling. The pro 
posed journal for literary criticism proved equally ini- 

Berlin Society. 71 

practicable. Schelling was now beginning to cast him 
self loose from the Fichtean philosophy, and projected 
a journal of his own. The Schlegels, who had quarrelled 
bitterly with the Allgemeine Literaturzeitung, had 
already started the Athenaum/ and manifestly found 
themselves less and less in harmony with Fichte, whom 
they pronounced wanting in poetry and imagination. 
Schleiermacher, finally, who had for Fichte a deep dis 
like, partly from personal, partly from philosophical dif 
ference, reviewed the Bestimmung des Menschen, 
which appeared towards the close of 1799, in a bitter 
and contemptuous manner. Gradually Fichte withdrew 
from the society into which he had at first been cast, 
and associated himself more closely with men like Bern- 
hardi, the philologist; with Zeune, lecturer at one of the 
gymnasia in Berlin, a man excellently skilled in modern 
languages ; with Huf eland, the Court physician, whom he 
had known at Jena ; and with Fessler, the leader of the 
Freemason movement, which was then attracting atten 
tion in Germany. ISTor was he without more powerful 
patrons. With Beyme, Struensee, and Yon Altenstein 
he was on terms of friendship, and through the good 
offices of the first named he obtained full permission 
to exercise his activity as a lecturer in Berlin. 

The development of his philosophic views during the 
same period made more clear and definite the funda 
mental differences which separated him from the Roman 
tic school, and from their speculative ally Schelling. 
For although the stress laid in the early expositions of 
the Wissenschaftslehre upon the "Ego" or self -con 
sciousness as the ultimate reality in cognition and in 
action might appear to indicate an agreement between 

72 FicUe. 

Fichte s doctrines and those of his quondam associates, 
yet it must not be forgotten that for Fichte, as for Kant 
and for Hegel, the unity of thought was never the indi 
vidual with his empirical personal aims. It is true that 
upon the relation between self-consciousness, which is the 
essence of the thinking subject, and the wider sphere of 
reality, little had been said in the Wissenschaf tslehre 
itself, but the problem was touched implicitly in the 
( Sittenlehre, and came to the foreground in the religious 
controversy preceding the expulsion from Jena. Fichte s 
attention seems now to have been turned entirely upon 
those general elements in human thought and action 
hitherto allowed to remain in obscurity in his theory ; 
and while in his popular and published writings he gave 
forth the results of his speculation in the form of more 
or less completed doctrines of morality, theoretical 
politics, history, and religion, the speculative method by 
which these were attained, and the connection of them 
with the earlier treatment of the Wissenschaftslehre, 
were expounded in repeated courses of lectures. The 
notes of many of these lectures have been published by 
his son, 1 and at least one completed exposition of the 
new mode of contemplating the problems of philosophy, 
never published, but dating from the period immediately 
after the flight to Berlin, has been included in the com 
pleted edition of his works. 2 The inner connection of 
these writings with the prior stage of Fichte s public 
philosophical activity will be discussed at a later point ; 
meantime the external history of his labours must be 

1 In the Nacligelassene Werke/ 3 vols., 1834. 

? DarstellungderWissenschaftslehre C Werke/ vol. ii. pp. 1-163). 

The Vocation of Man. 73 

The Bestimmung des Menschen (* Vocation of ]\Ian ), 
published in the early part of 1800, gave great offence 
to the Schlegels and to Schelling by the deeply relig 
ious tone which prevailed throughout the closing and 
crowning portion of it. Schleiermacher, as has just been 
said, wrote a bitterly sarcastic review, and could hardly 
find words strong enough to express his detestation of 
it. The truth is that Schleiermacher never advanced, 
philosophically, beyond Spinozism, the principles of 
which are only disguised under the mystically pious 
tone of feeling on which all his speculation rested. 
Now the very aim of the Bestimmung des Menschen 
is to show that Spinoza s position, that of pure natural 
ism, is transcended in ethical idealism ; and that between 
the views of man as the mere product and flower of 
nature, and of nature as but a form in which infinite 
intelligence makes itself manifest in finite consciousness, 
the opposition is radical. The same opposition, it is 
plain, must exist between idealism as conceived by 
Fichte and the Natur-philosopliie to which Schelling 
was now advancing. For in the latter, while in words 
Reason is made the supreme unity out of which all 
flows, in reality Nature is regarded as an independent 
fact, endowed with formative powers, and giving rise to 
human consciousness as we know it. The ultimate 
Reason, as mere Neutruin or identity of Real and Ideal, 
can have specific character only when viewed in relation 
to the two elements which dissolve themselves into it. 
If, of these two elements, nature be conceived as the 
2?rius, and thought as but a higher form of natural forces, 
then, as Fichte would have said, the ultimate Being is 
not living thought, but dead nature, A further opposi- 

74 Fichte. 

tion between the two thinkers arose from the difference 
of their views regarding the mode of treating natural or 
empirical knowledge. From Kant, Fichte had learned 
the lesson which he never forgot, that a priori construc 
tions of nature are philosophically worthless. To him, 
therefore, the exercises of Schelling s "genial imagin 
ation," by means of which nature was interpreted with 
out experiment or observation, appeared to be absolute 
Mysticism, mere conceits of chance. 1 

With these elements of speculative difference, person 
al harmony was not likely to continue. The correspon 
dence between the two thinkers during the years 1800 
to 1802 accompanied as it was by the publication of 
various writings, in which Schelling not only brought 
forward his new views, but called attention to their 
advance upon the Fichtean position exhibits a gradual 
cooling of friendship, culminating in the sharpest accusa 
tions of mutual misunderstanding. Nor did the con 
troversy end with the close of their correspondence. 
In the lectures of 1 804, On the Characteristics of the 
Present Age, Fichte, without naming Schelling, deduces 
or interprets philosophically Schwdrmerei and Natur- 
pliilosophie as necessary phenomena of a corrupt and 
unthinking age; while Schelling not only criticised 
in an aggressively personal tone the Erlangen lectures, 
to be mentioned presently, On the Vocation of the 
Scholar, but in 1806 summed up all his enmity against 
his former friend in the biting * Exposition of the True 
Relation between Natur-pliilosopliie and the Amended 

1 See generally for Fichte s view regarding the Natur-philosophie 
of Schelling, the 8th lecture of the Characteristics of the Present 
Age (< Werke/ vol. vii. pp. 111-127). 

Literary Activity. 75 

Fichtean Theory. Fichte s final word remained unpub 
lished during his life, but it now appears in his Col 
lected Works in the tract written in 1806, and entitled 
Notice regarding the Idea of Wissenschaf tslehre, and of 
its Fortunes up to the Present Time. 1 Here, without 
any hesitation, he characterises Schelling as "one of 
the most muddled heads that the general muddle of the 
age has produced," as "an utterly incompetent and 
bungling sophist," and subjects two of his writings, the 
* Darstellung meines Systems and the Philosophic 
und Religion, to the most unsparing criticism. 

With Schleiermacher there had been no open breach 
of friendship. It is curious that Fichte does not appear 
to have read the hostile and continued criticism of his 
views which runs through the Critique of the Theories 
of Morals. 2 Had he done so, it would certainly not 
have passed without notice. But with another of his 
former allies he was presently compelled to break. Eein- 
hold, who never seemed capable of maintaining a posi 
tion in philosophy except by attaching himself to some 
more vigorous thinker, had suffered his grasp of Fichte 
to slacken, and had been drawn towards a new luminary, 
Bardili of Stuttgard, whose Grundriss der ersten Logik 
had appeared in 1800. Of this work, recommended to 
him in the warmest manner by Eeinhold, Fichte wrote 
a sharp review in the Erlangen Literaturzeitung, the 
tone of which contrasted strongly with the eulogy 
pronounced by Eeinhold in the Jena journal. A 
"Letter to Professor Fichte" in the first number of 
Eeinhold s Beytrage (1801) was followed by Fichte s 

1 Werke/ vol. viii. pp. 361-407. 

2 Grundlinien einer Kritik der bisherigen Sittenlehre (1803). 

76 Fichte. 

"Reply," 1 a powerful piece of writing, valuable for the 
light it throws upon the Wissenschaftslehre, but con 
clusive as regards the friendship between the corre 

^N"ot content with philosophical contention, Fichte 
turned upon the old opponent of all speculation, F, 
Nicolai, and annihilated him in the Life and Singular 
Opinions of Nicolai. 2 All Nicolai s forms of criticism, 
his likes and dislikes, his laborious satire, are deduced 
with logical rigour from the first principle of his nature, 
that all human knowledge was summed up and compre 
hended in him, that what he did not understand was 
co facto unintelligible and absurd, and that the mere 
expression of his adverse opinion was sufficient to put 
all opponents to rout. It is a bitter satire, not alto 
gether undeserved, but doing less than justice to merits 
which Nicolai undoubtedly possessed. 

The early years of residence at Berlin were unusually 
productive. In addition to lectures and to the writings 
already noted, we have during this period the work 
which in Fichte s own opinion was the most careful and 
most maturely considered of all his productions, The 
Exclusive Commercial State. 3 This remarkable work 
is but little known, and yet it is by far the most com 
plete exposition of theoretical socialism in modern 
literature. By an exclusive commercial state, Fichte 
understands a union of citizens under common laws, 
in which no international trade is permitted. Of the 

1 Werke, vol. ii. pp. 504-534. 

2 Nicolai s Leben Tind sonderbare Meintmgen, 1801. 

3 Der geschlossene Handels-staat (1800) : Werke, vol. iii. pp. 

Economics. 77 

three books into which the work is divided, the first 
traces the principles of such a state ; the second com 
pares them with the actual phenomena presented by 
communities permitting international exchange ; the 
third considers the steps by which a state as now organ 
ised may make itself exclusive. The fundamental polit 
ical doctrines are deduced from a peculiar view regard 
ing property. The right of property, Fichte thinks, 
does not extend over things, but only over modes of 
action. The state, therefore, has to assign to each of its 
members the sphere within which his free activity may 
be manifested. Hence it is requisite that the state should 
determine the distribution of the citizens into the three 
grand classes of producers of raw materials, manufactur 
ers, and merchants; should regulate the scale of production 
and consumption ; should fix the natural ratios of value 
in accordance with the principle that the intrinsic worth 
of a thing is the amount of its life-supporting property ; 
and should issue a money of its own which could be 
contracted and expanded in amount so as to cause no 
detriment by fluctuations of prices. In the second book, 
where the actual economic conditions of communities 
are considered, the ruling ideas are those so commonly 
met with in socialist writings : that in trade left to its 
natural course one party benefits at the expense of 
another ; that the use of money confers a new and bane 
ful power on some classes of society ; and that among 
interchanging countries, the poorer, to its certain loss and 
harm, will gradually be drained of its metallic wealth. 
In the third book, the way towards the exclusive state 
is shown to be the rejection of the use of metallic cur 
rency, and the adoption of a circulating medium which 

78 Fichte. 

shall be valid only within the community itself. From 
this would naturally follow the restriction of the state to 
its own resources and the fostering of its own industries. 
Fichte has evidently no doubt regarding the power of 
the state to carry on these elaborate regulative functions : 
he never seems to have contemplated any possible dis 
turbance of the balance between production and con 
sumption, nor to have considered the natural influences 
which determine the course and forms of industry. The 
Exclusive Commercial State is the best illustration of 
his total neglect of experience and want of power to 
bring his abstract notions into connection with concrete 
historical reality. 

The lectures at Berlin continued to gain in popularity 
and in influence. The most eminent citizens and states 
men were to be found in attendance on them, and it was 
but natural that the idea should occur to reinstate Fichte 
in some position as academical lecturer. In 1804 he 
was invited by the Russian Government to the newly 
organised university at Charkow ; in the same year he 
was offered a chair at the Bavarian university of Land- 
shut. The first invitation he declined, because he felt 
that the foreign surroundings would diminish his influ 
ence and activity; the second he likewise refused, 
rather from dread of the strong ecclesiastical feeling in 
Bavaria than from disinclination to the university there. 
Towards the close of the same year, however, Beyme 
procured for him an offer, which he gladly accepted, of 
the Chair of Philosophy at Erlangen, under condition 
that he should be required to lecture during summer 
only, and might reside at Berlin during the winter 
months. In May 1805 he opened his course at Erlangen, 

Lectures at Erlangen. 79 

was received with distinction by his colleagues, and here 
delivered to tl:e whole body of students the lectures on 
the Nature of the Scholar/ which were published in 
the ensuing year. 1 Almost simultaneously there appeared 
the lectures delivered at Berlin in the winter of 1 804-5, 
On the Characteristics of the Present Age, and those 
delivered in the winter of 1805-6, The Way towards 
the Blessed Life, or Doctrine of Keligion. 2 The three 
sets of lectures form a completed whole : the first part, 
the Characteristics, analysing the present state of cul 
ture and thought ; the second, The Nature of the 
Scholar, indicating the spirit in which the attempt to 
rise to a higher stage should be made ; the third, sketch 
ing in bold outlines the completed reconciliation of life 
and thought in religion. In them the results of Fichte s 
speculation are presented in popular form, and they are 
certainly incomparable specimens of the union of vig 
orous philosophical thought and masterly skill in expo 

The fundamental idea of these works, expressed in 
various forms, has been made familiar to English readers 
through the teaching of England s greatest modern 
moralist. The guiding principle of all Caiiyle s ethical 
work is the principle of Fichte s speculation, that the 
world of experience is but the appearance or vesture of 
the divine idea or life ; that in this divine life lie the 
springs of true poetry, of true science, and of true reli 
gion ; and that he only has true life whose spirit is in 
terpenetrated with the realities transcending empirical 

1 Werke, vol. vi. pp. 347-448. They have been translated by 
Dr W. Smith. 

2 The " Gnindziige," in Werke, vol.vii. pp. 1-256 ; the " Anwei- 
sung," Werke, vol. v. pp. 397-580. Both in English by Dr Smith. 

80 Ficlite. 

facts, who is willing to resign his own personality in the 
service of humanity, and who strives incessantly to work 
out the ideal that gives nobility and grandeur to human 
effort. 1 By slow degrees does humanity work out its 
aim, the perfect ordering of life according to Reason and 
with Freedom ; and the period of construction, in which 
the general Reason moulds and fashions the thoughts 
and practical efforts of mankind, is preceded by the de 
structive period of individualist criticism. The charac 
teristics of this destructive age, the principles of the 
Avfklarung, are drawn by Fichte with a master-hand, 
and in the state of German thought and society he had 
before him the realisation of his sketch. The present 
age appeared to him, in its lack of devotion to general 
interests, in its cold individualism, mechanical statecraft, 
and selfish morality, the condition of completed sinful- 
ness. The call to the higher life, which he raised on 
philosophical grounds, was soon to become the passionate 
appeal of the patriot, who saw in the degradation of his 
country the effects of a false system of thought and 
ethical principle. 


The outbreak of the war between France and Prussia 
in 1806 had been preceded by events which showed all 

1 Mere references to Fichte are numerous enough in Carlyle (see, 
e.g., On Heroes, Lect. vi., the essays on the State of German Lit 
erature/ and on Novalis ), "but the full significance of the relation 
between them can become clear only when one compares the thought 
ful essay entitled Characteristics, and the Sartor Resartus, with 
Fichte s popular works above named, specially the Grundziige d. 
gegeu. Zeitalters. 

Fall of Prussia. 81 

too clearly how deep was the disorder and corruption of 
the German national feeling. The selfish and vacillating 
policy of Prussia had rendered it possible for her to be 
the isolated object of Napoleon s hostility. The shame 
ful Rheinbund, completed in July 1806, had placed the 
princes of Southern and "Western Germany under the 
headship of France, and had separated them from the 
German empire. Even the shadowy bond which seemed 
to unite the German States had been dissolved by the 
Austrian emperor s renunciation of the Kaiserate, while 
the passive attitude of Prussia during the overthrow of 
Austria in 1805 had alienated the two great German 
Powers. 1 The declaration of war with France was hailed 
with joy in Prussia as the one evidence yet remaining of 
life and independence in the state. The great triumphs 
of the Prussian army in the past inspired a feeling of 
confidence which unfortunately had no sound basis. The 
Berlin circles waited eagerly for the news of victories 
which they were prepared to celebrate, and the announce 
ment of the terrible calamities of Jena and Auerstadt 
came like thunder from a clear sky. The Prussian power 
at a single stroke was shattered. The army was driven 
into fragments, fortress after fortress fell without resist 
ance into the hands of the conqueror, and Berlin was 
left without defence. Fichte, with his friend Hufeland, 
fled beyond the Oder to follow the fortunes of the de- 

1 An admirable picture of German politics at this period is given 
in the anonymous pamphlet, Deutschland in seiner tiefen Erniedri- 
gung, published in the summer of 1806, for the printing of which the 
unfortunate bookseller Palm, of Niirnberg, was shot by order of Na 
poleon. The more extensive historical works bearing on the period, 
especially the lives of Stein by Pertz and Seeley, give more copious 

P. IV. F 

82 Fichte. 

feated king, and to await the development of the struggle 
in East Prussia, where Russian aid could be counted on. 
His wife remained to protect the family and goods of 
the united households. 

At Stargard, where Fichte first halted, he found to 
his amusement a full-grown university in which his 
name and fame were absolutely unknown, and where it 
was necessary for him to inform his brother professors of 
the subject which he professed. At Konigsberg, where 
he took up residence from November 1806 till June 
1807, he was received with more intelligent apprecia 
tion, was nominated temporary professor, and delivered 
lectures, both publicly and in private, on the Wissen- 
schaftslehre. Here, too, he worked diligently at the 
study of modern languages, which he had begun under 
Delbriick, and above all, at Pestalozzi s educational 
schemes, in which he seemed to find the seeds for the 
regeneration of public feeling in Germany. The fall of 
Danzig and the battle of Fiiedland drove him from 
Konigsberg a few days before the conclusion of the 
melancholy Peace of Tilsit. After a stormy sea-voyage 
he reached Copenhagen, where he was greeted with 
warm affection by his former scholar Oersted, now a 
brilliant and successful professor at the Danish univer 
sity. Not till August 1807 did he return to Berlin. 

The calamities of Prussia had drawn the attention of 
all her greatest thinkers to the causes of such an unex 
pected collapse. With the instinctive feeling of a great 
nation still full of vital power, it was seen that regener 
ation was as possible as it was necessary, but that such 
regeneration must spring from a united and purified 
national spirit. The old mechanism which, when ani- 

Condition of Prussia-. 83 

mated by a Frederick II., had been powerful and fit for 
great ends, must be set aside. The antiquated laws that 
separated the people into distinct and hostile classes, and 
substituted class interests for public sympathy, must be 
amended. The army, which had become an imperium in 
imperio, so hateful that even the defeat of the nation 
could not repress joy at the overthrow of the Junker- 
thwn, must be made truly to represent the national will 
and force. Above all, what lay as positive principle at 
the root of all efforts towards amendment, the national 
education must again become a training through which 
the spiritual powers of the individual might be strength 
ened, and the feeling of corporate unity reinstated. 
Chaotic enough were some of the efforts to realise these 
obscurely felt longings, and one must smile at the good 
old Jahn s endeavour to regenerate the nation by convert 
ing it into one gigantic Turnverein (gymnastic associa 
tion); but nevertheless Prussia possessed a noble band 
of clear-sighted and strong-hearted sons, who severally 
took up and developed the ideas which converged to 
wards one end, the reformation of the national mind. 
Stein and Hardenberg bent all their energies to the 
destruction of tho old land laws which still held a large 
portion of the people in the state of villeinage, to the 
restriction of class-privileges, and to the institution of a 
system of local government which might knit together 
the several members of the state, Scharnhorst under 
took the reformation of the military order, and laid the 
foundations of the system which has made the German 
army the most powerful engine of war the world has 
ever seen. 1 To Fichte fell the task of endeavouring by 
1 It is quite beyond tlie scope of this sketch to give any more de- 

84 Fichte. 

his eloquence to turn the attention of the nation to the 
need for a new spiritual education. Already had he felt 
that in this way only could he discharge his heartfelt 
duty to the state. On the outbreak of the war in 1806, 
he had proposed to Beyme that he should be permitted 
to accompany the army as lay-preacher, and had received 
from the king thanks for an offer which was not ac 
cepted. The call to action was even stronger now than 
formerly, and at all hazards it was obeyed. On succes 
sive Sunday evenings, from 13th December 1807 to 
20th March 1808, he delivered in the great hall of the 
Academy of Sciences, before a crowded audience, his 
famous " Addresses to the German Nation." The French 
were still in occupation of Berlin : well-known spies 
frequented the lecture-hall, and fears were openly ex 
pressed for the safety of the speaker. But to a spec 
ulative treatment of patriotism the French naturally 
attached but small weight ; the Moniteur intimated 
that a famous philosopher, named Fichte, was delivering 
a course of lectures on reforms in education ; no steps 
were taken against him either at the time or at a later 
date, when men such as Schleicrmacher and Wolf were 
cautioned by the French commandant, Davoust. One 
need not wonder at such indifference, for, in truth, to 
many of his own countrymen Fichte s words were of as 
little weight as to the foreigner. Contemporary records 
preserve a quite surprising silence regarding the Keden. 1 

tailed notice of these great works. A very complete survey is con 
tained in Hausser s Deutsche Geschichte vom Tode Friedrichs des 
Grossen/ vol. iii. pp. 120-254. The land reforms are stated with preci 
sion in Mr Morier s essay, Systems of Land Tenure (Cobden Club), 
pp. 243-285. 

i See J. Bona Meyer, < Ueber Fichte s Reden (1862). The notes 

Addresses to the German Nation. 85 

The Addresses link themselves naturally to the 
Characteristics of the Present Age. In the latter, 
Fichte had depicted the times as the " age of completed 
sinf ulness," and had referred them to the third great 
epoch in the history of humanity, the period when 
Reason is beginning to free itself from instinct and 
authority. By the force of events this age had been 
brought, for Germany at least, to a violent close. 
Individualism, with its selfish morality and statecraft, 
had been shattered by a blow dealt from without. The 
new epoch, that of the conscious recognition of Reason, 
had been inaugurated, and it remained to be seen how 
far Germany was fit to enter on its noble inheritance, 
and by what method it should be brought to take pos 
session. There are thus in the Addresses two leading 
trains of thought a survey of those elements in the 
German spirit out of which the new state may be con 
structed, and an exposition of the mode by which they 
are to be utilised. 

Moral regeneration of a nation, the education of the 
individual to the great general interests, is only possible 
when there is a free and living national spirit, capable of 
uniting the several members in the service of a common 
end. The German spirit is free and living, for the 
German people is pure and unmixed, and its history 
is the development of a single stock. The wonderful 
plasticity of the German language, which renders it 
capable of expressing in vivid and pictorial fashion the 

to this little pamphlet, which contains an excellent treatment of the 
Addresses, give many interesting particulars regarding the circum 
stances under which they were delivered and the impression made 
by them. See also Seeley s Stein, vol. ii. pp. 27-42. 

86 FiMe. 

profoundest thought, is in itself a sufficient proof that 
the German people has the stamp of originality. The 
languages of the Germanic and the Neo-Latin races, as 
compared with the pure German tongue, are lifeless and 
mechanical. ]S r o people which had not a free and ori 
ginal national feeling could have taken up and worked 
out to a glorious termination the great idea of the Refor 
mation. No people save the German has proved its 
capacity for the deepest philosophical speculation. In 
its language, in its religious depth, and in its philoso 
phical power, Germany amply proves itself a free and 
living people. For Fichte, indeed, as Kuno Fischer well 
says, Germany is the Ego among all nations. 

There lie, then, in the German spirit the possibili 
ties of a noble ethical life for the individual, of a pure 
and rational^ state, of a religion which shall penetrate 
the life of humanity. 1 How shall these possibilities 
be realised 1 ]N"ot otherwise than by a new system of 
national education, a system which shall have as its aim 
the perfection of the moral nature of the individual, and 
which shall at every step draw closer the links that bind 
the individual to the community. The groundwork of 
such a new education had already been laid by a deep- 
thinking German, by Pestalozzi ; and the salvation of the 
people is to be looked for in the universal adoption and 
earnest realisation of what is true and original in his 

Fichte proceeds, then, to develop at some length his 
scheme of national education in its several stages of in- 

1 It is interesting to note that Fichte thinks Germany the only 
nation that has shown itself fit to realise the ideal of a republican 
constitution ( Werke, vol. vii. pp. 357). 

Scheme of National Education. 87 

fant training, of school and university discipline. Like 
Pestalozzi, he lays stress on the necessity of beginning 
with real intuition and not with words or symbols ; but 
he subjects to acute criticism Pestalozzi s method, and 
substitutes for it a threefold training in accurate dis 
crimination of the elements of sense experience i.e., 
feelings of the intuitions of external realities, and of 
bodily movements. So soon as this preparatory disci 
pline has been completed, it is needful that children 
should be removed from the many home influences that 
corrupt education, and reduce the efforts of instructors to 
nullity. Education is a national affair, and must be 
conducted by the nation at the general expense. The 
state must support a body of teachers ; and a common 
education, embracing along with the culture of the in 
tellect an adequate technical training, must be provided 
for all. 1 Ey this means, and by it only, the common 
ethical feeling, the sense of national unity, can be fos 
tered and made productive. Germany must become an 
"exclusive educational state," and patriotic feeling be 
come the mainspring of action. A united Germany 
would be the best safeguard against the evils of the 
artificial "balance of power" policy, which for long 
had been the bane of the German States. It might 
resist the evil pressure of international commerce, which 
makes the poorer country a natural prey for the more 
wealthy. Above all things, the unique richness and 
depth of the German character are a sufficient demonstra 
tion of the folly of these dreams of universal monarchy, 

1 With Ficlite s idea of the necessity and value of training to some 
mechanical occxipation, one may compare the fantastic pccdayogiiun 
in Wilhelm Meister s Wander jahre. 

88 Fichte. 

which can be realised only at the cost of national in 

To this great work, a work of the last importance, 
not for Germany alone, but for humanity at large, all 
ranks and classes are summoned. On the present age 
rests the task of carrying forward the great spirit that 
has animated civilisation, and of vindicating the noble 
place that has been held by the German people in the 
world s history. 

" In these addresses " (thus proceeds the fine peroration 
of Fichte s last lecture) "the memory of your forefathers 
speaks to you. Think that with my voice there are 
mingled the voices of your ancestors from the far-off ages of 
grey antiquity, of those who stemmed with their own bodies 
the tide of Roman domination over the world, who vindi 
cated with their own blood the independence of those moun 
tains, plains, and streams which under you have been suffered 
to fall a prey to the stranger. They call to you, Take ye 
our place hand down our memory to future ages, honour 
able and spotless as it has come down to you, as you have 
gloried in it and in your descent from us. Hitherto our 
struggle has been deemed noble, great, and wise ; we have 
been looked upon as the consecrated and inspired ones of a 
Divine World-plan. Should our race perish with you, then 
will our honour be changed into dishonour, our wisdom 
into folly. For if Germany were ever to be subdued to the 
empire, then had it been better to have fallen before the 
ancient Romans than before their modern descendants. We 
withstood those and triumphed ; these have scattered you 
like chaff before them. But as matters now are with you, 
seek not to conquer with bodily weapons, but stand firm and 
erect before them in spiritual dignity. Yours is the greater 
destiny, to found an empire of mind and reason to de 
stroy the dominion of rude physical power as the ruler of the 
world. Do this, and ye shall be worthy of your descent 
from us. 

Addresses to the German Nation! 89 

" With these voices mingle the spirits of your later fathers 
of those who fell in the second struggle for freedom of 
religion and of faith. Save our honour too, they call. To 
us it had not become wholly clear what we fought for ; be 
sides our just determination to suffer no outward power to 
control us in matters of conscience, we were also impelled 
by a higher spirit, which never wholly unveiled itself to our 
view. To you this spirit is no longer veiled, if you have 
vision for the spiritual world ; it now regards you with 
high clear aspect. The confused and intricate mixture of 
sensuous and spiritual impulses shall no longer be per 
mitted to govern the world. Mind alone, pure from all 
admixture of sense, shall assume the guidance of human 
affairs. In order that this spirit should have liberty to de 
velop itself, and rise to independent existence, our blood was 
shed. It lies with you to give a meaning and a justification 
to the sacrifice, by establishing this spirit in its destined 
supremacy. Should this result not ensue, as the ultimate 
end of all the previous development of our nation, then 
were our struggles but a vain and forgotten farce, and the 
freedom of mind and conscience for which we fought an 
empty word, since neither mind nor conscience should any 
longer have a place among us. 

" The races yet unborn plead with you. Ye were proud 
of your forefathers, they cry, and proudly ranked yourselves 
in a noble line of men. See that with you the chain is 
not broken. Act so that we also may be proud of you ; and 
through you, as through a spotless medium, claim our de 
scent from the same glorious source. Be not you the cause of 
making us revile our ancestry, as low, barbarous, and slav 
ish ; of causing us to hide our origin, or to assume a foreign 
name and a foreign parentage, in order that we may not be, 
without further inquiry, cast aside and trodden under foot. 
According as the next generation which proceed from you 
shall be, so shall be your future fame ; honourable, if this shall 
bear honourable witness to you ; beyond measure ignomini 
ous, if ye have not an unblemished posterity to succeed you, 
and leave it to your conqueror to write your history. Never 

90 FicUe. 

has a victor been known to have either the inclination or the 
means of passing a just judgment on the subdued. The 
more he degrades them, the better does he justify his own 
position. Who can know what great deeds, what excellent 
institutions, what noble manners of many nations of anti 
quity, may have passed away into oblivion, because their 
succeeding generations have been enslaved, and have left 
the conqueror in his own way, and without contradiction, 
to tell their story ? 

" Even the stranger in foreign lands pleads with you, in 
so far as he understands himself, and knows aright his own 
interest. Yes ! there are in every nation minds who can 
never believe that the great promises to the human race of 
a kingdom of law, of reason, of truth, are vain and idle 
delusions, and who therefore cherish the conviction that the 
present iron age is but a step towards a better state. These, 
and with them all the after-ages of humanity, trust in you. 
Many of them trace their lineage from us ; others have re 
ceived from us religion and all other culture. Those plead 
with us, by the common soil of our Fatherland, the cradle of 
their infancy, which they have left to us free ; these, by the 
culture which they have accepted from us as the pledge of a 
higher good, to maintain, for their sakes, the proud posi 
tion which has hitherto been ours, to guard with jealous 
watchfulness against even the possible disappearance, from 
the great confederation of a newly arisen humanity, of that 
member which is to them more important than all others ; 
or that when they shall need our counsel, our example, our 
co-operation in the pursuit and attainment of the true end 
of this earthly life, they shall not look around for us in 

" All ages, all the wise and good who have ever breathed 
the air of this world of ours, all their thoughts and aspi 
rations towards a higher good, mingle with these voices 
and encompass you about and raise suppliant hands towards 
YOU; Providence itself, if we may venture so to speak, and 
the Divine plan in the creation of a human race which in 
deed exists only that it may be understood of men, and by 

Addresses to the German Nation! 91 

men be wrought into reality plead with YOU to save their 
honour and their existence. Whether those who have be 
lieved that humanity must ever advance in a course of cease 
less improvement, and that the great ideas of its order and 
worth were not empty dreams but the prophetic announce 
ment and pledge of their future realisation ; whether those 
or they who have slumbered on in the sluggish indolence 
of a mere vegetable or animal existence, and mocked every 
aspiration towards a higher world have had the right, this 
is the question upon which it has fallen to your lot to fur 
nish a last and decisive answer. The ancient world, with 
all its nobility and greatness, has fallen through its own 
unworthines.s and through the might of your forefathers. If 
there has been truth in that which I have spoken to you in 
these Addresses, then it is you to whom, out of all other 
modern nations, the germs of human perfection are espe 
cially committed, and on whom the foremost place in the 
onward advance towards their development is conferred. 
If you sink to nothing in this your peculiar office, then 
with you the hopes of Humanity for salvation out of all its 
evils are likewise overthrown. Hope not, console not your 
selves with the vain delusion, that a second time, after the 
destruction of an ancient civilisation, a new culture will 
arise upon the ruins of the old from a half-barbaric people. 
In ancient times, such a people existed fully provided with 
all the requisites for their mission ; they were well known 
to the cultivated nation, and were described in its literature ; 
and that nation itself, had it been able to suppose the case 
of its own downfall, might have discovered the means of reno 
vation in this people. To us also the whole surface of the 
earth is well known, and all the nations who dwell upon it. 
Do we know one, of all the ancestral tribe of modern Europe, 
of whom like hopes may be entertained ? I think that 
every man who does not give himself up to visionary hopes 
and fancies, but desires only honest and searching inquiry, 
must answer this question No ! There is, then, no way 
of escape : if ye sink, Humanity sinks with you, without 
hope of future restoration." 

92 Fwhte. 

With much that is over-strained and fantastic, much 
that is indefinite and unpractical, the Addresses yet 
spoke to Germans as they had not been spoken to since 
the time of Luther. The idea of the unity of the Ger 
man people began in them to be detached from the old 
ideal of the Holy Empire, and to link itself on to the 
history of .the race, and above all to the history of the 
strongest German State, to the history of Prussia, The 
most interesting facts in the troubled narrative of this 
troubled period are the rise and growth of the strong 
feeling of nationality, and the development of a more 
definite opposition between the older forms of German 
imperial union and the new conception of a national 
unity, an opposition practically expressing itself in the 
antithesis between Austria with the Kaiserate and 
Prussia with the German Confederation. It is true 
that the smaller German States, especially those of the 
south and west, remained long unaffected by the new 
movement, and hence it becomes intelligible how the 
old history of internal dissension began to reappear in 
Germany so soon as the foreign yoke had been thrown 
off. Nevertheless it is to this time the historian must 
look for the first foresh ado wings of the form of German 
unity which has slowly been wrought out in the later 
years of the present century. 

Shortly after the delivery of the Addresses, Eichte 
was struck down by the first illness which had seriously 
affected him. Even his iron constitution had suffered 
from the fatigue of the months of exile from Berlin, from 
the anxiety and distress which continuously accompanied 
him. The public lectures on philosophy, for which he 
had prepared himself in the spring of 1 808, were given 

The Functions of a University. 93 

up ; and for some months he resided at Teplitz, where 
the warm baths restored, though not completely, his 
shattered health. 

During this time an important step in the regener 
ation of Prussia had been under debate. When the 
Halle University had been closed after the defeat of 
Jena, the professors made proposals to the king that the 
seat of the university should be transferred to Berlin. 
This proposition was the occasion for the serious and 
mature consideration of the advisability of having in 
Berlin a national university. To Beyme, then Minister 
of Instruction, the commission was given to make the 
preliminary arrangements for such a step, and, on his 
invitation, Fichte sent in an elaborate and carefully 
constructed plan for the new institution. 1 Although 
the university as it was eventually organised resembled 
in little or nothing Fichte s ideal, the details of his 
scheme present some points of interest. 

The true function of a university, according to the 
Deduced Plan, has not been in general rightly appre 
hended. It is not the communication of knowledge by 
means of lectures, for, were this the aim, university work 
would be better performed by a large collection of books. 
The university is the crown or apex of the system of 
education, whereby the whole powers of the individual 
are to be trained to their highest form of exercise. A 
university is, in brief, a school for training in the art 
of using the understanding scientifically. All details of 

" Deducirter Plan einer zu Berlin zu errichtenden hb heren Lehran- 
stalt," Werke/ vol. viii. pp. 95-204. With tins should be com 
pared his Ideas on the Internal Organisation of the University of 
Erlangen," Nachgel. Werke, vol. iii. pp. 275-295. 

94 Fichte. 

the organisation, as far as teaching is concerned, follow 
from this general principle. Thus the lecture method 
must be relinquished in favour of combined dialogue, 
examination, and practice in themes or theses. The 
scholars, who are destined to fulfil a high aim in the 
state, who are to represent culture and intelligence, must 
be carefully prepared in the preliminary school-education, 
must be isolated from all the details of life, and must have 
the means of support secured to them. The university 
will itself form a seminary or training-school for professors. 
From this general conception Fichte proceeds to work 
out the details first as regards the organisation of stu 
dies in a university, then as regards the distribution of 
scholars and teachers, their economy and relation to the 
state, and finally as regards the mode in which a univer 
sity so constituted may actively influence the scientific 
world. In his treatment of the first subject, we have 
to note the occurrence of an error extremely frequent in 
the case of systematic theorists. Fichte thinks that in 
all branches of study the beginning should be found in 
a kind of encyclopaedic introduction ; and that for all 
branches of study at a university, the common introduc 
tion is to be found in philosophy. Accordingly, the first 
year of study is arranged to be passed under the care of 
one professor of philosophy, who, without inculcating 
any system, shall train the students to reflection in the 
nature of the problems of thought and knowledge, shall 
indicate to them how the special sciences branch off 
from philosophy, and shall give literary and critical 
notices by way of introduction. When this first course 
is completed, the studies are then separated according 
to the broad divisions of philology, philosophy, history, 

The Functions of a University. 95 

and natural science. The old division of faculties in no 
way corresponds to the guiding principle of university 
training, that it shall deal with the scientific use of the 
understanding. Law, e.g., is on the one side professional 
merely ; on the other, when it has a scientific aspect, it 
falls under history and philosophy. Medicine, in so 
far as scientific, rests upon, and should be included 
under, natural science. Theology, in like manner, must 
be distributed partly to philology, partly to philosophy, 
partly to history, of which last a most important chapter 
ought to be " the history of the development of religious 
notions among mankind." In the case of each special 
line of study, the course begins with an encyclopaedic 
introduction, and passes on to the more definite and 
thorough work of detail. 

The students Fichte regards as divisible into two 
grand classes. Those who, by the exercises of their 
first course, have proved themselves fit to follow out the 
profession of the scholar, are the Regulars, the very ker 
nel of the university, for whom and by whom it pecu 
liarly exists. They are to be distinguished not only by 
the economical arrangements for their maintenance, but 
even by a special academic garb. From their ranks are 
drawn the members of the professoriate ; and Fichte, it 
may be remarked, is emphatically of opinion that such 
members should be young, and should not continue too 
long in office. All other students those who use the 
university merely as an addition to their ordinary civic 
life are called Associates, among whom some may be 
regarded as aspirants to the dignity of the Regulars, and 
are therefore called Novices. 

Into the arrangements for the government of the uni- 

96 Fichte. 

versity, for the payment of teachers and the support of 
scholars, Fichte enters at great length, but his treatment 
presents little or nothing of interest. One cannot avoid 
a feeling of surprise at the one-sided vision which could 
see no possible evil in the reinstatement of a cloister- 
life as the substitute for the freer academic air of a 
university. More attractive is his discussion of the 
methods whereby the scientific training-school is to in 
fluence the surrounding world. The organised force of 
the university is to manifest itself in the continuous 
production of three sets of records or Ada : first, a Jour 
nal of Scientific Art, in a peculiar sense the Ada lit- 
eraria of the university, in which the produce of the 
university work, including the theses of the students, 
shall be incorporated ; second, a periodical publication, 
containing on the one hand abstracts of the encyclopaedic 
surveys which form the propaedeutic to all scientific 
teaching, and on the other records of all additions to 
scientific knowledge made in the university; finally, 
a critical journal, which shall serve as a guide to all 
new scientific publications a journal of the progress of 

Fichte s scheme, discussed with the utmost care in 
Beyme s house by a circle of men interested in the 
foundation of the new institution, appeared to contain 
too many novelties to permit of its acceptance. His old 
opponent, Schleiermacher, published in the following 
year (1808) his Occasional Thoughts on Universities in 
a German sense, which was undoubtedly intended as a 
counterpoise to the Deduced Plan ; and the organisation 
finally adopted more nearly resembles Schleiermacher s 
suggested modification of existing arrangements than 

The Berlin University. 97 

Fichte s thoroughly radical and comprehensive scheme. 
For some years the carrying out of the intention to 
found the new university was delayed. Stein, when 
in power, was unwilling to hurry matters, and had, 
for a time, some objections to Berlin as the seat 
of an academic institution. Not till 1809 was the 
affair handed over to W. von Humboldt, with instruc 
tions to have it carried out. Lectures were delivered 
in that year by Fichte, Schleiermacher, Savigny, Wolf, 
Klaproth, and others, which were in fact, though not 
in form, systematic university courses. The formal 
opening was made in the autumn of 1810, and Schmalz, 
formerly of Halle, was named first rector. An unusual 
number of the most eminent men in literature and science 
had been collected in Berlin during the preceding years, 
many of whom e.g., F. A. "Wolf and Buttmann though 
not actually professors in the university, yet, as members 
of the Academy of Sciences, contributed by lectures and 
otherwise to the success of the new undertaking. Among 
the great names associated with the Berlin University 
in the early years of its existence, one notes Fichte, 
Schleiermacher, Savigny, I. Bekker, Aug. Bockh, Mar- 
heineke, Neander, Eichhorn, De Wette, Solger, Ideler, 
Klaproth, Eiihs, Schmalz, and Eudolphi ; altogether a 
constellation of brilliant stars, shedding lustre on the 
youngest of the German academies. 

In 1810 Fichte opened his course with the important 
lectures, first published in 1817, on the Facts of Con 
sciousness. * The new mode of viewing the system of 
philosophy which is there presented was worked out in 
greater completeness, though not, one must confess, with 

1 Werke, vol. ii. pp. 541-691. 
P. IV. G 

98 Fichte. 

greater clearness, in the lectures of 1812 on TVissen- 
schaftslehre, and on Transcendental Logic, 1 and in 
those of 1813 on Wissenschaftslehre, on tl e Theory 
of Law, on Ethics, and on the Facts of Conscious 
ness. 2 In these lectures one finds much difficulty in 
recognising the brilliant expositor of the earlier Wissen 
schaftslehre. Fichte labours with harsh and forced meta 
phors to make clear his new conception of the whole 
intelligible world, of which knowledge is but an imper 
fect fragment; but over the entire exposition there hangs 
an air of obscurity and mysticism foreign to his original 
mode of thinking, and rendering comprehension of his 
meaning unusually hard. It is evident, indeed, from 
the continuous repetitions, from the over - anxiety to 
clear up fundamental points, that the system itself was 
not in all precision of outline before the mind of the 
author. The true cause of this obscurity we shall after 
wards have to consider; but it must be said that, however 
important are these lectures in the development of 
Fichte s own thought, they have had no significance in 
the history of speculation as a whole. His contributions 
to the progress of German philosophy must be looked 
for in the works published by him, and mainly in those 
of the Jena period. 

As at Jena, so here at Berlin, we have to observe how 
difficult it was for Fichte s impetuous temper to accept 
any situation save that of supreme ruler. His strong 
ideas on university organisation, in particular his desire 
by the most stringent penalties to suppress the corrup- 

1 < Nachgel. Werke, vol. ii. pp. 317-492 ; vol. i. pp. 103-400. 

2 Ibid., vol. i. pp. 1-102; vol. ii. pp. 493-652 ; vol. iii. pp. 1-118 ; 
vol. i. pp. 401-574. 

Ficlitc as Rector. 99 

tions of student life, led to constant and unseemly con 
flicts with his colleagues. At Michaelmas 1811 he had 
been elected rector of the university for the ensuing 
year, but after four months of office he resigned, finding 
it impossible to deal after his own fashion with univer 
sity affairs, while hampered by the constant opposition 
of the senate. That the fault was altogether on the side 
of his colleagues cannot be admitted. Fichte s natural 
impatience was probably aggravated by ill health, for he 
had never quite recovered from his one serious illness ; 
and, if we may judge from a passage in one of Sol- 
ger s letters, his general demeanour was little calculated 
to produce harmony in an academic body. "Fichte," 
writes Solger, " makes our very existence bitter by his 
mode of acting, not only by his paradoxical whims and 
real absurdities, but by his obstinacy and egotism. Con 
tinuously to overawe by declaring, l ~Not I as an indi 
vidual say or desire this, but the Idea which speaks and 
acts through me, is certainly a fine mode of speech, in 
which I willingly recognise true and honest zeal. But 
when he proceeds in all matters, the greatest or the 
least, from the axiom that the Idea has selected but one 
organ viz., Herr Fichte himself it does appear to me 
that individuality becomes simple despotism. He has 
no measure in anything ; for the smallest fault he treats 
the students as though they were imps of hell. He pays 
no regard to the spirit of any law or regulation, but will 
have the very letter, of which his interpretation is often 
most ludicrous. The dementia which is mingled with 
his ingenium is really childlike. On the other hand, 
where one of his whims is in question, he will take the 
most astounding liberties with either letter or spirit of a 

100 Fichte. 

law. Is he out-voted ? he will not carry out the resolu 
tion of the senate, hunts up the most ridiculous reasons 
in order to find some formal error, and, if this be unsuc 
cessful, appeals to the Government. Moreover, he has 
a band of students, his devoted scholars, who have been 
infected with his accursed desire to regenerate the 
world. These fellows make the most shameless repre 
sentations to the senate, and Fichte transmits them 
directly to the department without communicating them 
to us as the real academic government, gives on his own 
authority an answer to the students, and justifies them 
against the senate. " l 


The close of the year 1812 was a notable epoch in 
European history. In December the fragments of 
Napoleon s great army, broken and shattered in the 
Eussian campaign, reached Wilna, and the scattered 
bands began to retrace their steps through German ter 
ritory with a Eussian army following close upon them. 
The magic influence of the great conqueror seemed to 
have received its death-blow, and throughout all Europe 
began a general stir and commotion. In Prussia more 
especially, weak and dispirited as she then appeared to 
be, for her army was numerically small, her fortresses 
and chief towns still in the hands of the invader, it was 
felt that the time at last had come for a decisive effort 
towards independence. An indescribable enthusiasm, 
hardly to be restrained from premature and fatal out 
break, agitated the whole people. The nation and the 
army, in the most eager excitement, waited with impa- 
i From Noack, J. G. Fichte s Leben, &c., pp. 541, 542. 

War of Liberation. 101 

tience for some movement on the part of their sovereign. 
The wisest and most prudent heads perceived how neces 
sary it was for the future of Prussia and of Germany 
that their deliverance should not be left passively to the 
exertions of the Russian power. Only by vigorous and 
united action could Prussia hope to regain her position 
among the Powers of Europe. Events had been to a 
certain extent precipitated by the independent action of 
some of the leaders e.g., by Yorck s secession from the 
French army and conclusion of the famous Convention 
of Tauroggen ; but it was needful that the work should 
be taken in hand by the nation itself, and that the king 
should be compelled to act with rapidity and vigour. 
The flight of the king in February to Breslau, where 
he was in comparative freedom from French control, 
was the first decisive step, for it thus became possible 
for him to assent openly to the alliance with Eussia, 
already initiated independently of him by Yorck and 
Stein. 1 On the 28th of the same month was con 
cluded the Treaty of Kalisch, whereby the two Powers, 
Russia and Prussia, bound themselves to carry on in 
concert the war against their common enemy. On the 
2d March the Russians crossed the Oder, and were fol 
lowed, on the 10th, by the Prussian troops. On the 16th 
the formal declaration of war was made, and on the 
ensuing day the king issued his famous " Summons to 
my people." The appeal was nobly responded to. From 
every quarter, from every rank of society, recruits and 
volunteers poured in. The universities were emptied of 

1 The troubled movements of this important time are narrated with 
great fulness and precision in Seeley s Life and Times of Stein, vol. 
iii. pp. 1-103. 

102 Fichte. 

their students, even the gymnasia sent their Primaner 
to the front. Scharnhorst s great war-mechanism began 
to appear in its true form, and those who from age or 
other cause were unable to serve in the ranks, enrolled 
themselves in the Landsturin, and prepared to play their 
part in the struggle for national independence. 

To Fi elite this wonderful upheaval of the Prussian 
people presented itself in its great historical aspects as 
the typical contest between the principles of reason and 
self-will, and as the means by which the long-desired 
unity of the German nation might be achieved. On the 
19th February 1813, he closed his winter course of 
philosophical lectures with an eloquent address to the 
students, encouraging them in their heroic devotion, and 
emphasising the noble character of the work on which 
they were about to enter. 1 In the summer of the same 
year he delivered to such audience as could be gathered 
in the auditorium of the university, the lectures " On 
the idea of a just war " (afterwards incorporated in the 
posthumous Staats-lehre ), in which he characterised 
with force and eloquence the significance of a national 
war, and contrasted the idea for which the German 
people was about to contend with the principles of their 
great foe. 2 By this contest, it appeared to him, the 
unity of the German people might be attained sooner 
than had previously seemed possible. For, as he point 
edly declares in the remarkable Political Fragment 
from the year 1813, "a nation becomes a nation through 
war and through a common struggle. Who shares not 
in the present war can by no decree be incorporated in 

1 Werke/ vol. iv. pp. 603-610. 

2 Ibid., vol. iv. pp. 401-430. 

War of Liberation. 103 

the German nation." l As was natural, his tendency to 
regard Prussia as the kernel and destined head of the 
united German people received fresh strength from the 
events of the time, for Prussia alone seemed to show the 
genuine enthusiasm of a nation struggling for its exist 
ence. In brief aphoristic fashion the Political Frag 
ment passes in review the claims of the several chief 
states, Prussia, Austria, and Saxony, to the headship of 
Germany, and the balance is inclined strongly towards 
Prussia. 2 

A more active part than by the lectures it was not 
permitted to him to take. Again, as in the war of 1 806, 
he proposed to the Government that he should exercise 
his oratorical powers on the army directly, but again his 
request was declined. He remained in Berlin, practising 
the military exercises in the Landsturm, and resuming, 
in the winter of 1813, his ordinary courses of lectures at 
the university. 

The current of the war, which at first threatened 
Berlin, had been diverted from the capital by the vic 
tories of Gross-Beereii and Dennewitz, but the numerous 
combats in the immediate vicinity of the city had left 
a sad legacy in hospitals overcrowded with sick and 
wounded. The civic authorities, unable with the means 
at their disposal to cope with the unusual burden im 
posed upon them, appealed for aid to the citizens, and 
especially solicited the assistance of women for the work 
of nursing. Among the first who offered their services 

1 < Werke, vol. vii. p. 550. 

- Fichte s view on this interesting point is noted, but given some 
what too positively, in Von Treitschke s historical eulogy of Prussia, 
Deutsche Geschichte im 19ten Jahrhundert. See Bd. i. p. 436. 

104 FicUe. 

was the wife of Ficlito, and throughout the winter 
months of 1813 she laboured incessantly in the hospitals. 
On the 3d January of the following year she was struck 
down by a serious, apparently fatal, nervous fever. Her 
husband, then opening a new course of philosophical 
lectures, attended constantly on her during the day, and 
left her only in the evening for his class-room. The 
crisis had hardly been passed, and hope entertained 
of her recovery, when the same disease struck down 
his strong frame. For eleven days he lingered, with 
but few intervals of clear consciousness, his sleep be 
coming ever deeper, till on the night of the 27th 
January all sign of life gradually vanished. He was 
buried in the first churchyard before the Oranienburg 
gate in Berlin ; at his side now lie the remains of Hegel 
and Solger. Five years later his wife was laid at his 
feet. On the tall obelisk which marks his grave is the 
inscription from the Book of Daniel: "The teachers 
shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they 
that turn many to righteousness as the stars that shine 
for ever and ever." 

In person Fichte was short and strongly made ; the 
head massive, with pronounced features, keen and 
piercing eyes, thick and dark hair. In all his move 
ments, as in his actions, he was quick, impetuous, and 
strong. His life lies before us as the manifestation of a 
powerful and heroic spirit, marked by clearness of in 
sight and resoluteness of conviction, and animated by 
the loftiest ethical feeling. His errors are truly the 
defects of these great qualities. 




THE philosophy of Fichte attaches itself, by a kind of 
natural necessity, to that of Kant, of which it is an 
extension and development, and in relation to which it 
has its special significance. The difficulties in the way 
of obtaining a summary view of its nature and tendency 
are tlms, for the general reader, increased. From the pecu 
liar form of the system, it is not at all possible to effect 
an easy entrance into it ; but the closeness of its con 
nection with the Kantian philosophy renders it necessary 
not only that the reader should become acquainted with 
the specific character of the critical method, with the point 
of view from which the problems of speculative thought 
are regarded in all later German systems, but also that 
he should have a sufficient grasp of the details of the 
critical philosophy to appreciate what is peculiar in 
Fichte s advance upon it. Of these fundamental re 
quisites for comprehension of Fichte s doctrine, the first 
is the more important, even, one may say, the more 
essential. The English student who has been accus 
tomed to the analytical and psychological method of 
Berkeley, or Hume, or Mill, or even to the more de- 

10G Fichte. 

veloped forms of recent realistic or scientific thinking, 
as in Spencer, finds himself, as it were, in a new world, 
when he is brought into contact with the Kantian and 
post -Kantian speculations a world in which at first 
sight all appears to be inverted or reversed. Apparent 
inversion, as we know, may arise either from the posi 
tion of the things themselves, or from the inverted view 
of the observer ; and the extraordinary difference between 
the English and the later German philosophy is merely 
the result of the fundamental difference in point of view 
from which they contemplate philosophical questions. 
The problems with which both are engaged are of neces 
sity the same no philosophy is ever new but the 
methods employed are radically divergent, and not with 
out careful analysis and criticism can they be brought 
within sight of one another. It is indispensable, in 
attempting to give a systematic account of one phase of 
German speculation, that we should endeavour to make 
clear the characteristic feature which distinguishes that 
mode of thought, and we can hardly do so without com 
paring it to some extent with the prevailing type of 
English philosophy. So soon as the point of view and 
method of treatment have become clear, we are in a 
position to consider the problems to which the specula 
tive method must be applied, and thus to obtain a pre 
liminary outline or general conception of the whole 
system. This, in the first instance, is what we propose 
to undertake, leaving to the more detailed account of the 
system the second introductory subject the contents or 
results of the Kantian philosophy. 

If we consider what is involved in the descriptive 
adjectives which have been applied to what may be 

The Kantian Philosophy. 107 

called the current English philosophy, we shall be able 
to discover, by mere force of contrast, some of the most 
important characteristics of the Kantian method of 
speculative research. Historically, indeed, the Kantian 
method was an attempt to revise what had appeared as 
the final result of English philosophy ; and though the 
later post-Kantian writers make little or no reference to 
English thought, the connection between the two is not 
to be overlooked. A more fruitful conception of the 
aim and function of speculative thinking is to be ob 
tained by working towards Kant from the position of 
Locke and Hume than from that of Leibnitz, important 
as the influence of the latter undoubtedly was. The 
English philosophy, w r e have said, may be distinguished 
as prevailingly analytical or psychological in method. 
In other words, if it be regarded as the primary and 
all-comprehensive function of philosophy to render in 
telligible the whole of experience, to give a systematic 
and reasoned account of all that enters into the life of 
the human thinking being, then the method of Locke, 
Berkeley, Hume, and their successors, proposes to sup 
ply answers to the various problems into which this 
one comprehensive inquiry divides itself, by an analysis 
of the conscious experience of the thinking subject, by 
a complete psychology of human nature. Conscious ex 
perience, that of which the individual subject becomes 
aware as making up his existence, is regarded as material 
upon which the processes of observation, classification, 
analysis, employed to good purpose in physical inquiries, 
are to be directed. At first sight, indeed, such a method 
appears not merely natural, but the only possible way in 
which a philosophical theory, granting such to be feas- 

108 Fichte. 

ible, can be constructed. For is not a philosophical 
theory a kind of knowledge 1 And how otherwise than 
by investigation of the contents of mind can we arrive 
at any conclusions regarding the nature and limits of 
knowledge 1 "It surely needs no argumentation," says 
a distinguished exponent of the view, " to show that 
the problem, What can we know 1 cannot be approached 
without the examination of the contents of the mind, 
and the determination of how much of these contents 
maybe called knowledge." 1 Since that which stands 
in need of explanation is experience itself, we evidently 
cannot explain it otherwise than by looking at it. To 
look beyond experience is absurd ; there is evidently 
nothing left but the examination of experience, and to 
this philosophy must needs be confined. 

It may here be remarked that any difference between 
the philosophical methods under comparison does not 
arise concerning the restriction of knowledge to experi 
ence. Fichte as well as Kant is aware that philosophy 
has only to think experience, that it in no way adds to 
experience, and that it must contain nothing beyond 
experience. " I declare," he writes in one of the most 
popular of his expositions, " the very innermost spirit 
and soul of my philosophy to be, that man has nothing 
beyond experience, and that he obtains all that he has, 
from experience, from life only. All his thinking, 
whether vague or scientific, whether popular or tran 
scendental, proceeds from experience and concerns nothing 
but experience." 2 Any divergence arises, not from dis- 

1 Huxley s Hume, p. 49. 

2 " Sonnenklarer Bericht," Werke, vol. ii. p. 333. Cf. < Werke, 
vol. ii. pp. 9, 10, 123, 395; vol. v. pp. 340-344. 

The English Method. 109 

agreement respecting the quite empty proposition, that 
there is nothing beyond experience, but from some differ 
ence in conception of experience and in the method of 
dealing with it. Critical examination often shows that 
under an apparently simple question or statement a whole 
theory lies concealed, and that the inferences drawn fol 
low not from the fact contained in the query or proposi 
tion, but from the underlying theory. Thus, in the case 
in point, the restriction of philosophical inquiry to expe 
rience has always meant, to writers of the English school, 
that phenomena of inner and outer life are known in the 
same way, and that beyond the knowledge thus obtained 
there is nothing standing in need of investigation or 
capable of being investigated. " Psychology," says the 
writer previously referred to, " differs from physical 
science only in the nature of its subject-matter, and 
not in its method of investigation." 1 

English philosophy thus starts with a definite concep 
tion of the nature and limits of speculative inquiry. 
Experience, inner and outer, is equally matter for 
scientific treatment; and the results of such treatment 
form, on the one hand, natural science strictly so called 
on the other, mental science, of which certain generalised 
propositions make up the substance of philosophy. It 
is not putting the matter too strongly to say that the 
categorical rejection of this psychological method is the 
very essence of the critical philosophy, the key-note of 
the critical spirit in speculation. Eor Kant, as for 
Fichte, psychology is a science or doctrine subordinate 
to philosophy proper, involving in its method assump 
tions which it is the very business of philosophy to dis- 
1 Huxley s Hume, p. 51. 

110 Fichte. 

cuss, and employing notions which it is the function of 
philosophy to criticise. So far from speculative prin 
ciples being generalisations from psychological data, they 
are antecedent to the establishment of such data as facts 
of experience. The naive doctrine that since cognition 
is an aspect or form of conscious experience, its nature, 
extent, and validity are to be considered by investigating 
it according to the rules of scientific method, just as we- 
should investigate an object presented in outer experi 
ence, is not to be identified with the truth which the 
most metaphysical thinker acknowledges, that only by 
thought can thought be tested and examined. The 
special lesson of the critical philosophy is that the 
assumption of a distinction of the whole field of experi 
ence into the two realms of objective facts and of sub 
jective facts itself requires examination and defence. 
We must consider what the significance of such a dis 
tinction is for the conscious subject within whose 
experience it presents itself, and under what condi 
tions it can be recognised by him. Were we to begin 
our philosophical analysis, as psychology must begin, 
with the distinction as in some way a fact given, and 
assume simply that the thinking subject is confronted 
with two orders of phenomena to be interpreted through 
the same notions, we should commit a twofold error. 
For, on the one hand, while in words we appear to 
assert that the two orders of facts. make up all that is, 
we have in reality placed alongside of them, in a quite 
inexplicable fashion, the thinking subject or mind, a 
tertium quid which certainly stands in need of some 
explanation ; and, on the other hand, the qualities and 
relations discoverable among facts, when contemplated 

The English Method. Ill 

as matters of observation for the thinking subject, are 
only such as appear to a supposed external observer, 
and not their qualities and relations for the intelligence 
whose very substance they compose. We voluntarily 
abstract from the essential feature of the problem, the 
existence of the conscious subject for whom the orders 
of facts are there present, and must therefore recognise 
that any conclusions from investigation of the facts have 
validity only in subordination to the abstraction from 
which we start. Thus psychology, as ordinarily con 
ceived the scientific account of the phenomena to be 
observed in consciousness, the description, analysis, and 
history of mental phenomena stands on precisely the 
same level as the natural sciences, and like them, leaves 
out of consideration the problem with which philosophy 
as such has to deal. Even the analysis of mental states, 
which forms a portion of psychological treatment, is the 
analysis of them as facts of observation, that is, the de 
termination of the conditions on which their occurrence 
depends, the separation of simpler and more complex 
states, and the formulation of general laws of coexist 
ence and succession, not the analysis of their significance 
as elements of the cognitive or moral experience of a 
conscious subject. The fundamental notions which we 
apply in psychological research are those of all scientific 
method, and concern objects i.e., things regarded as 
existing in conjunction and mutual interdependence. 
Their very applicability, therefore, depends on the reso 
lution of the prior questions as to the significance of 
knowledge of any thing or object, and the relations 
involved therein. Such prior questions may be called, 
in Kantian phraseology, transcendental, and the whole 

112 Fichte. 

method by which they are treated the transcendental 
method. The substitution of this transcendental method 
for the earlier abstract metaphysics, and for the prevail 
ingly psychological fashion of dealing with philosophical 
problems, is, in brief, Kant s contribution to modern 
thought. 1 

The fundamental difference between the psychological 
method of dealing with philosophical problems, the 
method which regards the states of mind as so many 
definite objects for a conscious observer, and the tran 
scendental method, which proposes for consideration the 
conditions under which knowledge of a thing is possible 
for a thinking subject and the significance of such know 
ledge, appears with great clearness in the philosophical 
system of Berkeley a system in which both methods 
may be discerned, though neither receives precise ex 
pression, and the combination seems to have remained 
unobserved by the author. Berkeley s thinking is in so 
many ways typical of the English spirit, his idealism 
has affected so much of current speculation, and his 
position in the general development of modern philo 
sophy is so peculiar, that it is worth while here to scru 
tinise somewhat closely the principles upon which he 

Beyond all question, Berkeley started, in his philoso- 

i The term transcendental probably has, for English ears, an un 
pleasant ring, and will suggest metaphysical efforts to transcend 
experience. It must be understood, however, that transcendental 
method is simply the patient and rigorous analysis of experience 
itself. For any question or theorem which might pass beyond pos 
sible experience, Kant reserved the term transcendent ; and the dis 
tinction, if not the mode of expressing it, is accepted by all his 
successors. Neither in Kant nor in Fichte is there anything in the 
slightest degree resembling what is commonly called metaphysics. 

The System of Berkeley. 1 13 

phical analysis, with a doctrine which in terms may be 
regarded as identical with the principle of the transcen 
dental method. He proposed to investigate philoso 
phical notions or terms in the light of the doctrine, that 
no fact can possibly be admitted which is not a fact 
for some conscious subject. Every metaphysical theorem 
or notion must be subjected to the same test, reduction 
of its terms to the experience of a thinking being. His 
attack on abstractions is thus virtually identical with 
the Kantian criticism of things -in -themselves. For 
Berkeley an abstraction is a supposed fact of experience 
which from its nature cannot possibly form part of the 
experience of a conscious subject. If we remove from 
a fact those relations or qualifications through which 
only it enters into and forms portion of the conscious 
experience of some subject, we have as result an cib- 
stractum or contradiction, something supposed to be a 
possible object of experience, and yet at the same time 
wanting in the qualities requisite for any such object. 
Material substance as distinct from the varied and 
specifically qualified material things, unqualified matter 
as the cause of objective phenomena, things as existing 
out of relation to conscious intelligence, abstract ideas 
of facts of experience, are instances of such abstraction. 
Berkeley s demand that, before discussing problems as 
to matter, cause, substance, and other metaphysical no 
tions, we shall first determine what they mean for us, 
has the true note of the transcendental method. 

On the other hand, it is equally beyond doubt that 
Berkeley, under the influence of Locke s philosophy, 
accepted as the criterion of the possibility of entrance 
into the conscious experience of a subject, the possibility 

P. IV. H 

114 Fichte. 

of forming one fact of observation in the observed sum 
of states making up conscious experience. In his view, 
as in that of Locke, existence for a self-conscious sub 
ject meant individual or particular existence as an object 
of internal observation. Thus from the outset he united 
in one system the transcendental and the psychological 
methods, and the history of the development of his 
thoughts is an instructive record of the struggle between 
the two principles. The manifold inconsistencies which 
criticism discloses in his doctrine are natural results of 
the attempt, however unconscious, to combine two radi 
cally incompatible views. 

Berkeley s earliest reflections, those contained in the 
Commonplace Book, discovered and published by 
Professor Fraser, are dominated throughout by the in 
dividualist notion which is part of the psychological 
method. He is even disposed at times to reject his 
underlying doctrine of the necessary implication of sub 
ject and object, and to regard mind itself as but a collec 
tion of particular ideas, as, indeed, mind necessarily is, 
for internal observation. In the first formal stage of his 
philosophy, the stage represented by the Principles, 
the most characteristic features are due to the steady 
application of the individualist criterion. It seems evi 
dent to him that to the observer, regarded as standing 
apart from conscious experience, nothing can be pre 
sented but isolated, single states, connected externally or 
contingently, containing in themselves no reference to 
underlying substance or cause, and existing only as facts 
for an observer. The result is one aspect, unfortunately 
almost the only aspect known, of the Berkeleian idealism. 
Existence is the sum of states making up the experience 

Berkeley s Idealism. 115 

of the individual ; there is nothing beyond the mind and 
its own phenomena. From such a mere subjective fancy 
no philosophical aid is to be found for resolving any of 
the harder problems of thought. As the matter is well 
put by Dr Stirling : " The same things that were called 
without or noumenal, are now called within and phenom 
enal ; but, call them as you may, it is their systematic 
explanation that is wanted. Such systematic explana 
tion, embracing man and the entire round of his experi 
ences, sensuous, intellectual, moral, religious, jesthetical, 
political, &c., is alone philosophy, and to that no repeti 
tion of without is within, or matter is phenomenal, will 
ever prove adequate." 1 In short, the slightest reflection 
enables one to see that the most airy subjective idealism 
and the crassest materialism are one and the same. In 
both cases we are left with the mere statement that 
things are what they are, and it matters not whether we 
call them ideas or forms of matter. 

This, however, is but one side of Berkeley s so-called 
idealism. Although, while developing from the individu 
alist principle, he could arrive at no other conclusion than 
that experience consists in the isolated states of the in 
dividual thinker, yet it seemed to him equally clear that 
the conscious subject could not be regarded as merely 
one of the objects of internal observation. The inde 
pendent existence and activity of the conscious self were 
therefore admitted by him as somehow beyond experi 
ence in the narrow sense, and in a very confused fashion 
he proceeded to ask what the significance of experience 
could be for such a self-conscious subject. His answer, 
given briefly and without adequate investigation of its 
1 " Annotations " to Schwegler s History of Philosophy, p. 419. 

116 FicUe. 

real ground, was practically that for such a subject con 
scious experience must present itself as a conditioned 
and dependent fact, as a series of accidents of which 
intelligence or mind is the substance, as a series of effects 
of which intelligence or mind is the cause. Thus the 
psychological idealism, reached by application of the one 
method, was transformed by application of the other into 
a species of objective or theological idealism. The con 
ception of a mere flux of conscious states was converted 
into the more complex notion of an intelligible system 
a world of free and independent spirits, whose modes 
of action and passion are the several modifications of 
actual experience as known to us. Finite minds are 
related to one another and to the Infinite Mind by 
mutual action and reaction. The course of nature is the 
result of the operation of the Divine Mind on finite 

A notion like this is essentially what Kant and Fichte 
call "dogmatic." 1 It implies or starts from the assump 
tion of an absolute opposition between two orders of real 
existences, the finite and the infinite mind, and endea 
vours to explain their reconciliation or conjunction by 
means of a conception which has validity only for the 
diverse objects of one conscious subject. A conscious 
subject can only think the objects which make up his 
experience as mutually determining, for only so do they 
compose one experience. To transfer this notion to the pos 
sible relations of infinite and finite intelligences, which 
by supposition are not mere objects for mind, is to make 
an invalid, or technically, a transcendent use of it. N"o 

1 See for Fichte s vigorous criticism of Berkeley, Werke, vol. i. 
pp. 438, 439. 

Berkeley s Idealism. 117 

ingenuity can render a finite and relative notion like that 
of causal action, or of mutual determination, adequate 
to express the possible connection between experience 
and the ground of all possible experience. God and the 
world are not to be thought as respectively cause and effect. 
The Berkeleian theological idealism thus yields no so 
lution of the problem it was intended to answer. It is 
simply a translation into the language of idealism of the 
popular view that the experience of the conscious subject 
is due to some action from without ; and if no further 
analysis be given, it is not of the slightest consequence, 
philosophically, whether we say that God is the cause 
of the varied character of conscious experience, or that 
things in themselves are the cause. In both cases we 
have started with the conception of the finite, self- 
existent mind, and explain its experience as communi 
cated to it from without. Such a mere fashion of 
speech makes clear neither what the significance of 
" coming from without " can be for an intelligence pos 
sessing only subjective states, nor how the notion of 
" without " can possibly arise in its consciousness, nor 
how it comes to regard itself as finite, and to refer for 
explanation to an Infinite Mind. 1 

1 One of these unanswered difficulties suggests the reason for the 
close similarity which has been found betwen Berkeley and Leibnitz. 
From Berkeley s subjective or psychological point of view, the crite 
rion of objectivity is want of consciousness of productive power on 
the part of the thinking subject. Now evidently, in the absence of 
other grounds, objectivity of this sort might be accounted for by 
reference to unconscious acts of production on the part of the sub 
ject, as well as by action from without. Experience would thus be 
the evolution of the thinking subject ; inner and outer would imply 
only differences in the conscious activity of the subject ; the Berke 
leian finite mind would be identical with the Leibnitzian monad. 

118 Fichte. 

Tliu later stages of Berkeley s thinking show the 
gradual perception on his part of the deficiencies in his 
earlier doctrine. On the one hand, it became increas 
ingly apparent that the results of the psychological 
method required to be qualified or limited by reference 
to the counter-conception of the conscious subject as in 
no sense a possible object of conscious experience : on 
the other hand, it began to appear doubtful to Berkeley 
how far any worth or validity could be ascribed to the 
psychological method. He had assumed throughout his 
earlier inquiry that to the supposed external observer, 
whether our own mind or not, the facts of conscious ex 
perience would present themselves as a contingent series 
or stream ; but it now occurred to him that in so doing, 
he had simply cast into the mind of this external ob 
server all that was required to render knowledge pos 
sible, all that must be investigated before we can deter 
mine what knowledge really is. Thus, in Alciphron, 
stress is laid upon the fact that Self is not an idea 2. e. , 
not an object of observation ; and on the analogy of this, 
the wider inference is rested, that many intellectual prin 
ciples may likewise have validity, although what they 
refer to can in no sense be reduced to ideas, or isolated 
individual elements of conscious experience. In Siris, 
Berkeley begins to point out that the stream of contin 
gent facts of experience is not a datum requiring merely 
to be observed, but is possible material of knowledge 
only for an intelligence which combines the scattered 
parts in relations not included in the conception of them 
as mere objects. In fact, in the latest stage of his philo 
sophical development, it becomes evident to him that 
the so-called simple ideas of Locke are really concrete 

The Psychological Method. 119 

and complex units of cognition ; and that sense, so far 
from furnishing a kind of knowledge, supplies only ele 
ments, which for a thinking subject are possible mate 
rial of knowledge. 

Berkeley s doctrine has been considered in some de 
tail, partly because no subsequent English philosophical 
thinking seems to have advanced beyond his position, 
partly because one can discern very clearly in him the 
principles upon which English philosophy has always 
proceeded. The results of his work will probably have 
made intelligible what is to be understood by the psycho 
logical method of treating speculative problems, what is 
the precise nature of the assumptions underlying it, and 
what, on the whole, must be the characteristic feature of 
the opposed method. The psychological method, start 
ing from the point of view of ordinary consciousness, 
in which the individual subject is confronted with two 
dissimilar series of facts, inner and outer experience, 
and in which each series, as it presents itself separately, 
is viewed from the same quasi external position, proceeds 
to treat these facts by the help of the familiar category 
or notion of the thing and its relations to other things. 
The world of external experience appears as a totality of 
existing things, reciprocally determining and being de 
termined, each of which is what it is because the others 
are what they are. It matters not that, by the intro 
duction of some subjective analysis, we reduce the sup 
posed thinys to more or less permanent groups or series of 
sensations : the essential fact is, that they are thought as 
making up a mechanical whole. When the same con 
ception is applied to inner experience, to the thinking- 
subject, his states and relations to experience in general, 

120 Ficlite. 

the only logical result is a system of completed deter 
minism, or, as Ficlite calls it, dogmatism. Even without 
raising the question as to the legitimacy or validity of 
the notion thus applied to the interpretation of things in 
external nature, Fichte points out that the same concep 
tion, the same method, cannot be applied to the inter 
pretation of the life of the conscious subject. For, here, 
each fact is to be regarded, not only as a thing standing 
in relations to other things, relations only conceivable 
when we secretly postulate the presence of some mind 
which relates the things to one another, but as a fact for 
the conscious subject. They are not external to him, 
but form part of his very being and substance, and 
philosophy has specially to deal with their significance 
for him. The psychological method has simply thrown 
out of account or neglected the fundamental fact, that of 
self -consciousness. Mechanical or dogmatic explanations 
of mental phenomena may be adequate as statements 
of the conditions under which these phenomena come to 
be, but they are utterly inadequate as explanations of 
what these phenomena are for the conscious subject. 
Take as an example of the difference between the modes 
of treatment, the important distinction appearing in con 
sciousness between Ego and non-Ego, self and not-self. 
The psychological theory, if it is wise and enlightened, 
begins by assuming provisionally the existence of objec 
tive conditions under which specific sensations arise, 
and points to the variable nature of these conditions, 
and the variable combinations of sensations which result 
e.g., the constant presence of motor or muscular sen 
sations with different groups of passive sensations as 
giving the key to the origin of the notion. But such an 

The Speculative Method, 121 

explanation tacitly assumes the very point at issue. 
Why should either passive or active sensations, or any 
combinations of them, appear to the conscious subject 
himself as limitations? If we represent to ourselves the 
conscious subject as a thing acted upon and reacting, 
we may try by the help of this metaphor to render in 
telligible the fact that some states of his experience 
appear as objective and determined, while others are 
thought as subjective and relatively undetermined ; but 
our explanation extends only to the metaphor and not 
to that which is symbolised. There is no resemblance 
between passive and active sensations, and the assumed 
actions and reactions from which they arise; and the 
only problem, how the consciousness of difference arises 
out of the sensations, is not answered by reference to 
actions and reactions which are not in the sensations 
at all, but, if in consciousness at all, are added by 
thought. On the other hand, the speculative method 
proposes, by an analysis of self -consciousness and of the 
conditions under which it is possible, to clear up the 
significance for the conscious subject himself of those 
important differences which characterise his experience. 
Nothing must here be assumed which transcends self- 
consciousness, but nothing must be accepted as solution 
which is not for self -consciousness. The distinction 
between Ego and non-Ego is one for the thinking 
subject ; it is hopeless, therefore, to look for solution to 
hypotheses which lie outside of the thinking subject. 
The so-called scientific method in philosophy is emphat 
ically the method of metaphysical assumptions, for 
throughout its procedure it has recourse to explana 
tions which transcend experience. 

122 Fichte. 

Thus the philosophy of Fichte starts with the de 
mand that the facts of experience shall be examined 
as facts of self -consciousness. They exist only for a 
thinking being, and their significance or interpretation 
for the thinking subject is the substance of philosophy. 
Philosophy is thus the re-thinking of experience, the 
endeavour to construct by rigid and methodical analysis 
that which to ordinary consciousness presents itself as a 
completed and given whole. Speculation, therefore, in 
no way transcends the limits of experience ; it does not 
extend the bounds of thinking; it intrudes in no way 
into the province of natural science, which is but an 
extension of ordinary consciousness. " Xo proposition 
of a philosophy which knows itself is, in that form, 
a proposition for real life. It is either a step in the 
system, from which further progress may be made ; or if 
speculation has in it reached a final point, a proposition 
to which sensation and perception must be added, as 
rationally included therein, before it can be of service 
for life. Philosophy, even when completed, cannot 
yield the element of sense, which is the true inner 
principle of life (or actuality)." l Philosophy is thus the 
subjective side of that which objectively appears or pre 
sents itself as reality, in ordinary life. The experience 
of the finite subject, an experience in which, so far as 
cognition is concerned, the inner and outer worlds are 
distinct ; in which, so far as action is concerned, sensuous 
impulse and reasoned purpose, personal desire and gen 
eral or rational will, are combined ; in which, so far as 
the whole sphere of his finite existence is concerned, the 
feeling of personal independence is curiously allied with 
1 " Riickerinnerungen/ 9, Werke, vol. v. p. 343. 

His Examination of Experience. 123 

those strivings after infinite being in which independ 
ence would cease ; this experience, in all its diversity, 
is the matter to be explained ; and while philosophy may 
divide itself into various branches according to the dif 
ferent problems proposed, it is in a twofold sense a unity. 
For the experience to be interpreted is one, and the 
whole interpretation is but the exposition of the sig 
nificance of experience for self-consciousness, which is 
also one. 

If, now, we call any fact of experience which presents 
itself in consciousness, a cognition or matter of know 
ledge, and every systematic account of any series or class 
of such facts, a science (Wissenschaft), we shall be pre 
pared to understand why it was that Fichte selected, as 
title for philosophy in general, the term, theory of science 
or of knowledge (Wissenschaftslehre), and what are the 
formal requirements of this comprehensive doctrine. 1 It 
is the business of Wissenschaftslehre to develop from its 
first principle the organic plan or complete framework 
of human knowledge. We may assume hypothetically 
that there is system in human cognition, and if so, we 
assume that all principles can be shown to rest upon 
some one comprehensive absolute principle a principle 
incapable of proof, but giving the ground of proof to all 

1 The terms theory of science and theory of knowledge have of recent 
years acquired so special a significance among German writers on 
logic, that either would lead to misunderstanding if applied to Fichte s 
philosophical doctrine. Theorie der Wissenschaft has been taken 
to mean the systematic account of the methods actually followed in 
scientific research e.g., observation, experiment, analysis, &c. ; while 
Erkenntniss-theorie, or theory of knowledge, when used by a logical 
writer, implies that he brings to bear upon the doctrines of formal 
logic the combined results of psychology and general philosophy. 
There is a deplorable want of consistency in the use of the terms. 

124 Fichte. 

other principles. Our assumption can receive justifica 
tion only in and by the course of the development itself, 
i.e., wo can show that there is system in human know 
ledge if we develop completely, from its first principle, 
all that is contained in human knowledge. 

Fichte s earliest systematic work, the tract "On the 
Notion of "Wissenschaftslehre," contains a number of 
formal determinations regarding the new science ; but 
the true meaning of what is there laid down becomes 
apparent only when the nature of the doctrine itself 
has been seen. It is desirable therefore to omit all 
reference to this tract, at least until the system has been 




THE general aim or spirit of the Wissenschaftslehre 
having been determined, it becomes necessary to consi 
der more particularly the nature of the problems present 
ing themselves for solution, and the method by which 
they are to be treated. As regards both points, the most 
valuable writings are the two " Introductions to Wissen- 
schaftslehre," and the " Sonnenklarer Eericht." 1 


The slightest reflection discloses to us the remarkable 
distinction in consciousness between two orders of rep 
resentations 2 or phenomena, which we call, with some 
vagueness, inner and outer experience. With more pre- 

1 < Werke, vol. i. pp. 419-518 ; vol. ii. pp. 323-420. 

2 The term Vorstellung is used by Fichte, as indeed by all German 
writers, in various senses ; and the ambiguity attaching to it is un 
doubtedly one of the main causes of the misunderstanding of his doc 
trine, as of the Kantian system. Here it is employed simply to denote 
some form of consciousness something of which the subject is aware. 
Nothing is thereby decided as to the mode of existence of the repre 
sentation. It is not meanwhile to be regarded as a subjective state 
i.e., as a modification of the individual, particular Ego. 

126 Ficlite. 

cision, we sliould say that, while some phenomena of con 
sciousness present themselves as evidently the products 
of free mental activity, others appear in an order inde 
pendent of us, and are characterised for us by the accom 
panying " feeling " of necessity which attaches to them. 
No w, the problem of philosophy i.e., of "Wissenschafts- 
lehre is to explain experience, to render it intelligible ; 
and all explanation consists in rendering a reason for the 
phenomena to be explained. The ground of experience, 
in the highest sense, is not to be sought beyond experience 
itself, but our reflection upon experience does undoubtedly 
proceed beyond it, since it regards the whole as matter 
to be accounted for. This procedure beyond experience 
is, in fact, the process familiarly known as abstraction. 
Philosophical theory, having presented to it the complex 
fact of the coexistence of inner and outer experience, 
abstracts from the condition of coexistence, and selects 
for isolated consideration, on the one hand, the Ego or 
conscious subject, on the other hand, the non-Ego or 
object simply. Whether such abstraction is a legitimate 
process may remain meanwhile undetermined, the an 
alysis of the problem itself will throw light upon the 
nature of the thoughts involved in it, but by its means 
we reach the fundamental opposition of philosophical 
systems. Ego and non-Ego, subject and object, thought 
and being, are separate grounds, to which the whole of 
experience may be referred for explanation. Do we ex 
plain experience as the product of the non-Ego, we have 
the system which may be called Dogmatism ; do we 
explain the whole as springing from the Ego, we have 
Idealism. Of the one, the typical example is the system 
of Spinoza, in which the order and connection of thoughts 

Dogmatism and Idealism. 127 

are explained by reference to that which does not contain 
in itself the element of self-consciousness, where, there 
fore, the Ego appears as a mechanically determined unit 
in the sum total of things. Of the other, a representa 
tive may probably be found in Leibnitz, though much of 
the later Kantian speculation is only intelligible as a 
kind of half-understood idealism. 1 

"\Vhicli of these counter-principles has right on its 
side ? Does either satisfy the requirements of philoso 
phical explanation 1 It is evident, on the one hand, that 
the dogmatic method, if true to itself, must, in the end, 
have resort to an absolutely unknown and unknowable 
thing as the non-Ego. The thing-in-itself is, in fact, 
the solution offered by dogmatism ; and such solution is 
defective in two ways. In the first place, while for a 
supposed external observer the existence of a non-Ego 
might furnish explanation of what presents itself in the 
consciousness of the subject that is to say, of the limita 
tion of the subject no such explanation is possible for 
the subject himself. That he should be limited may 
possibly result from the existence of a non-Ego ; that he 
should know himself as limited cannot be explained from 
the existence of the non-Ego simply. In the second 
place, the assumed non-Ego is for the thinking subject 
non-existent : no possible predicate can, by the subject, 
be attached to it which does not imply reference to the 
subject, and therefore relative, dependent existence. 

] Berkeley, as Ficlite rightly notes, is ^dogmatist; but some phases 
of his speculation, and much of the philosophy which has rested itself 
on Berkeley, may be regarded as idealist. Fichte himself does not, 
in this reference, adduce Leibnitz as the type of idealism, and there 
are certainly elements in Leibnitz which might lead one to class him 

128 Fichte. 

The non-Ego, as such, as thing-in-itself, is not in con 
sciousness, and is, for the Ego, nothing. 

Dogmatism thus furnishes no explanation. The op 
posed principle, that of idealism pure and simple, has at 
least one superiority : it selects, as ground of explana 
tion, what is unquestionably in consciousness. The Ego, 
or subject, is known to be. But when the Ego, or subject, 
is taken per se, and the attempt is made to deduce 
from it the multiplicity of experience, we find a hiatus 
which is absolutely impassable, unless our method is at 
once guarded and comprehensive. An imperfect or half- 
understood idealism regards the Ego as merely subject, 
and is thus driven to the conception of self-consciousness 
as somehow one of the facts discoverable in intelligence. 
In this case, while it may be possible to explain that the 
Ego should know itself as limited, it is quite impossible 
to explain how it should know itself as limited by the 
non-Ego. As Fichte rightly puts it, " In vain shall we 
look for a link of connection between subject and object, 
if they are not first and simply apprehended as a unity. 

. . The Ego is not to be regarded as subject merely, 
but as at once subject and object." l 

If we translate Eichte s reasoning regarding idealism 
into other terms, it might be expressed thus. Idealist 
speculation has sought the ground of explanation in con 
sciousness, in that which is immediately and directly 
known to us. But in so doing, it has followed the same 
method which, when dealing with the thing-in-itself, 
gave rise to dogmatism. It has regarded consciousness 
as merely so much to be known, as a series of states, 
Vorstellunrjeu, from which nothing can possibly be ex- 
1 " Versuch einer iieuen Darstellung," Werke, vol. i. pp. 528, 529. 

Dogmatism and Idealism. 129 

tracted. It has not considered how consciousness comes 
to be, what conditions are necessarily implied in its ex 
istence, what are the laws under which it acts. Thus 
idealism drifts easily into a kind of psychological doc 
trine (as in Schmid, and later in Fries), or results in a 
sceptical phenomenalism (as in Maimon and in Hume). 1 
Only one idealist system has really gone to the heart of 
the problem, and fairly considered how it is that, in con 
sciousness, there appears the opposition between Ego and 
non-Ego ; for only one philosophy has seized the principle 
that consciousness or intelligence as a whole is condi 
tioned by self-consciousness, and that the laws under 
which self-consciousness are realised are at once the form 
and matter of intelligence. This is the critical or tran 
scendental idealism of Kant, a system imperfect in 
details, easily misunderstood, and requiring to be remod 
elled or restated before it can be made to yield ade 
quate solution of the speculative problem. 

Thus for Fichte there are historically but two reasoned 
systems of philosophy that of Spinoza and that of 
Kant. The one is dogmatic, that is, it neglects to give 
due weight to the principle of self - consciousness, and 
hence endeavours to explain existence by a notion which 
is limited, and applicable only within the experience of 
a self-conscious subject. The other is critical, that is, 
it recognises the great truth that all consciousness is de 
termined by self-consciousness, and so acknowledges the 
due limits of thought. If we were to express in a single 

1 It is not a little remarkable liow slight appears to have been Fichte s 
acquaintance with Hume s writings. Scepticism, as a whole, indeed, 
plays but a small part in his system of thinking, and is generally dis 
missed with a species of contempt. Of. Werke, vol. i. p. 120 n. 
P. IV. I 

130 FicMe. 

word the cliaracteristic feature of Fichte s system, we 
should describe it as " Spinoza in terms of Kant." That 
which was wanting in the critical philosophy, systematic 
development, is predominant in Spinoza; and, as will 
he seen, the theoretical part of the Wissenschaftslehre 
is nothing but an inverted or idealistic Spinozism. It 
has often been said that the influence of Spinoza over 
the course of Fichte s speculation became more signifi 
cant in the second period of his literary activity ; but 
even were this the case, one must not forget that in the 
earliest expositions of Wissenschaftslehre, comparison 
with Spinoza, and recognition of similarity with his 
thoughts, appear throughout. To understand the sub 
stance of Fichte s speculation, some note must be taken 
of these historical antecedents. 


To any one acquainted with Spinoza s system, Fichte s 
description of it as essentially " dogmatic " must at first 
appear erroneous ; for by a dogmatic system Fichte under 
stands one which deduces the order of conscious experi 
ence from a supposed order of things, and it needs but 
slight knowledge of Spinoza to be aware that for him 
any implied contrast or relation between the order of 
ideas and the order of things has no place. It is neces 
sary, however, to pass beyond the mere verbal definition 
of dogmatism on the one hand, and the mere state 
ment of Spinoza s opinion on the other, if we are to 
discuss fairly the relation between them. That which 
characterises dogmatism as a philosophical method is 
not simply the distinction between ideas and things, but 
the nature of the notion or category by means of which 

Historical Antecedents. 131 

either ideas or things are made comprehensible. In all 
cases of explanation, we find, as the residuum of analysis, 
some fundamental relation or thought by means of which 
the facts involved have become for us intelligible. Thus 
the notion or relation of cause is involved in all explana 
tions of physical change, and itself requires to be criti 
cally analysed in order that we may see what assumptions 
or underlying notions are implied in it. ^Tow the notion 
which dogmatism applies to explanation of experience 
is briefly that of mutual determination, what Kant 
called the category of Reciprocity. Each thing, or part 
of real experience, has its definite character by and through 
its relations to all other things. It is determined to be 
what it is, by virtue of the determinations of other things. 
A notion or category of this kind is evidently highly 
complex; and, indeed, as one might conjecture, it may 
be applied with much variety of signification. It may 
remain a purely mechanical category, implying only ex 
ternal relations of the things which compose a collec 
tive or aggregate whole ; or it may be elevated so as to 
become the idea of a systematic whole, in which the rela 
tions of the parts are not mechanical. 1 The first signifi 
cance, however, is that which characterises the use of the 
notion in the dogmatic method. For here things and 
ideas are regarded as alike in one respect, as being alike 
finite objects of possible cognition. Each external thing, 
each idea, is finite in its kind i.e., is capable of being 
limited, determined by another. Through this limitation 
by others, each has its definite being. It matters not, 
then, whether we regard things and ideas as composing 

1 The double significance of this category is very apparent hi the 
Kantian system. 

132 Fichte. 

two orders, of which one is cause, the other effect, or assert 
that things and ideas are both the same, looked at from 
different points of view; in either case we subject the 
facts to the same mode of explanation, regard each as 
a unit, marked off from others, and with only external 
relations to them, and explain the special characteristics 
of each as depending on the coexistence of all the 

Now this notion of reciprocity or mutual determina 
tion is fundamental in Spinoza, and is that by which 
his system has gained its greatest influence over modern 
thought. It is true that it is not the only notion used 
by Spinoza, in fact, the difficulties, even incomprehen 
sibilities, of his metaphysics arise mainly from the con 
junction of the notion of mutual determination with 
that of substance, but it is a thought which is involved 
in scientific procedure as such, and through it Spinoza 
has been brought into the closest relations with modern 
scientific work. The phrases, more or less commonplace, 
by which the systematic unity of things is expressed, 
such as, the order and uniformity of nature, the preva 
lence of law, are merely expressions of what is contained 
in this notion of reciprocity. It is evident, further, 
that if we apply this notion to the explanation of expe 
rience, we must regard self-consciousness, the essence of 
the thinking subject, as merely one phenomenon, or state, 
or thing, determined by relations to other phenomena, 
and assume that these relations are of an external kind. 
Thus, for Spinoza, the peculiarity of self-consciousness 
vanishes j and even if we interpret liberally the obscure 
propositions ( Ethics, ii. Props. 21 ct seq.) in which the 
Idea Mentis is treated, it is evident that self-conscious- 

Spinoza. 133 

ness, as understood by him, is referred to that which 
lies outside of it and therefore mechanically deter 
mines it. 

Fi elite s criticism of this dogmatic method is in form 
and spirit identical with the later and more famous 
expression of Hegel. He has to point out that Spinoza 
omits altogether criticism of the notion of mutual deter 
mination that is to say, omits to examine the nature and 
validity of the notion for our thinking. Had such criti 
cism been undertaken, it would have become apparent 
that a category like reciprocity is entirely inadequate to 
express the relation of self-consciousness and the expe 
rience to which it is related ; that substance and mode, 
Spinoza s supreme forms, are limited in their nature; 
and that there is no philosophic ground for procedure 
beyond self - consciousness. While signalising these 
faults, Fichte nevertheless recognises the high ideal of 
speculation which is disclosed in Spinoza s Ethics, and 
draws largely on the Spinozistic method. Many of his 
fundamental principles, both in the earlier and the later 
periods of his thinking, are in form and matter identical 
with those of the Ethics. There is no sufficient 
ground for asserting, as many writers have done, that the 
influence of Spinoza over Fichte increased, and that in 
the final period of the latter s philosophising his exposi 
tion is merely a mystical Spinozism. No closer connec 
tion is possible than that between the theoretical portion 
of the Wissenschaftslehre and the principles of Spi 
noza. The later works accentuate somewhat the reli 
gious aspect of the theory of knowledge, but imply no 
other theory ; and however close in forms of expression 
the religious doctrines of the two thinkers may be, the 

134 Fichte. 

radical opposition in their point of view is not to be 

This radical opposition in point of view was the 
natural and inevitable consequence of the critical philo 
sophy. To understand the specific problems presented 
to Fichte, it is necessary to note with some care what 
the Kantian system had completed, and what it had left 

To Kant the problem of philosophy in general had 
presented itself under special aspects determined by his 
torical circumstances, in the main, however, under the 
aspect of a question as to the possibility of knowledge. 
This question he for the first time proposed to treat in 
its wider issues, as independent of psychology and of 
metaphysical assumptions. Beyond all doubt it was not 
given to Kant, it is given to no thinker, to free him 
self entirely from the notions and phraseology current at 
the time ; and so it has come about that the * Critique of 
Pure Reason/ the work in which the dogmatic method of 
English philosophy and of Leibnitz was first subjected 
to examination, shows in many of its main doctrines un 
mistakable traces of the method against which it was 
directed. Thus, while Kant is making clear, on the one 
hand, that knowledge, for the self-conscious subject, can 
not be explained by reference to a world of things 
thought as out of connection with self-consciousness, he 
still allows himself ambiguities of speech which might 
be interpreted to mean that the special content of know 
ledge, the matter, is explicable by reference to such 
things ; and while he makes clear, on the other hand, 
that the conception of a mere stream of conscious states, 
as the phenomena of an individual subject, is in itself 

Kant. 135 

contradictory and absurd, he yet draws distinctions 
which might be taken to imply that the difference of 
subjective and objective in knowledge is one of kind, 
and not a subordinate form to be explained under the 
more comprehensive synthesis with which he started. 

If, then, it be considered what was for Kant the fun 
damental principle of philosophical method, and how far 
the actual results of his system correspond with the 
requirements of the method, a summary view of the 
problems left for solution to the post-Kantian writers 
may readily be obtained. ISTow the fundamental prin 
ciple, disguised under many strange fashions of speech in 
the * Critique of Pure Reason, is that already described 
as the principle of self-consciousness. All knowledge, 
all experience, is only for a self-conscious subject. Such 
a subject is not to be regarded as an individual, for the 
notion of individuality implies relations of a complex 
and quite distinct kind. It is the common element in 
all consciousness, that by which consciousness is what 
it is. If, therefore, the explanation of experience be 
proposed as the problem of philosophy, the method of 
procedure may be either an investigation of the idea 
of self-consciousness, the determination of the conditions 
under which it is possible, and the evolution in strict 
sequence of the elements which are embraced in it ; or 
by an analysis of knowledge, of experience, as it pre 
sents itself in ordinary, empirical consciousness, and the 
determination of the features in it due to the presence 
of this central unity. The second method was that 
adopted by Kant, and the result has been somewhat un 
fortunate. For, in consequence of the method adopted, 
the several elements composing knowledge were dis- 

136 FiMe. 

cussed in isolation from one another and from their central 
unity, and were thus, almost of necessity, viewed not as 
elements in a synthesis, which have no existence save in 
and through their combination, but as independent parts 
of an integral or collective whole. Thus, in the Critique 
of Pure Keason, the problem is stated in an ambiguous 
and confusing way; and in the ^Esthetik, more particu 
larly, the central point of view is lost sight of in a quite 
subordinate issue. Knowledge, Kant sees clearly enough, 
is possible only as a synthetic combination in the unity 
of self-consciousness. The conditions or forms of such 
combination determine experience, or give general laws 
to it, but such determination is merely formal. No 
thing can be presented in self-consciousness which contra 
dicts or is out of harmony with these conditions, but the 
specific determination of this matter of knowledge is not 
to be deduced from the conditions themselves. Upon 
this view of the purely formal or logical function of the 
unity of thought rest the Kantian distinctions of the a 
priori and a posteriori elements in cognition, of form and 
matter, of sense and understanding, of empirical and 
transcendent reality, of phenomena and noumena. So 
far, then, as theory of knowledge goes, Kant, while bring 
ing into the foreground the very first principle of cognition, 
fails to connect therewith the subordinate forms. Space 
and Time are shown, on special grounds, not to be expli 
cable by reference to external things or to states of sub 
jective experience, but they are placed in no intimate 
relation to the unity of self-consciousness. The conscious 
subject is receptive, and, if receptive, only under the pure 
forms of space and time. But how or why a self-con 
scious subject should appear to itself receptive ; how or 

Kant. 137 

why, if receptive, it should be so in the forms of space and 
time, are questions entirely unresolved. So when Kant 
undertakes the discussion of the key-stone to his posi 
tion, the deduction of the categories or exposition of the 
forms of combination which make up the nature of the 
thinking subject, his procedure is equally external and 
haphazard. It is certainly shown that categories are 
implied in self -consciousness, but how or why they 
should be so implied how or why there should be so 
many of them and no more how they are connected 
with one another and form a system in human know 
ledge, these questions, likewise, are left unsolved. 
Further, when the categories, having been deduced as 
the forms of the activity of the synthetic Ego, are 
brought into relation with the forms of receptivity, the 
results, though rich in consequences, leave much to be 
desired. The fusion into the unity of knowledge is a 
merely mechanical one. Categories as modes of under 
standing, schemata as modes of productive imagination, 
data of sense as modes of affection, are linked together, 
and appear to have a nature and existence independently 
of one another, and of the synthesis in which they are 
combined. The final result the world of sense-expe 
rience determined throughout by intelligence, but in 
itself an empirically endless series of finite, limited 
objects is not one which can satisfy the demand for 
unity of cognition. The constant striving to transcend 
the limits of this world of experience, to reach the final 
synthesis in which its relation to self-consciousness shall 
be deduced, is what Kant calls Reason. So far as cog 
nition is concerned, the one result of reason is the 
empty notion of the thing in itself, a notion which, 

138 Fichte. 

unfortunately, was by Kant so expressed, and by the 
Kantians so understood, as to imply much of the old 
dogmatic theory which it had been the business of the 
Critique to explode. Kant, however, is not to be 
credited with all that has been drawn from his specula 
tions by writers who had never grasped his fundamental 
principle. For him, the thing in itself, the expression 
of the infinite striving of self-consciousness, is discover 
able only in self-consciousness, as its absolute law. The 
statement of this absolute law is certainly approached by 
Kant from the empirical point of view or by an analytic 
method, and the position assigned by him to the cate 
gorical imperative seems at first sight to sunder Beason 
entirely from the world of experience. Nothing, indeed, 
can make the Kantian moral theory perfectly coherent ; 
but, with especial reference to Fichte and the later 
German philosophy, it must be stated with perhaps un 
necessary definiteness, that only in the categorical imper 
ative does the notion of the thing-in-itself hold any posi 
tion as a reality in the Kantian metaphysics. 1 The final 
synthesis, so far as it was attempted by Kant, appears 
only in the Critique of Judgment/ in which, by means 
of the notion of End, a reconciliation is sought between 

1 It is much to be regretted that, almost without exception, the 
best English expositions of Kant restrict themselves to an account of 
the Critique of Pure Reason. Nothing but error and confusion can 
result from this arbitrary limitation. It is much as though one were 
to treat only the theoretical portion of Wissenschaftslehre, and 
leave untouched the fundamental problems of the practical side. That 
the Kantian theory appeared in three separate books, is no reason 
why we should treat it as three separate theories. The Critique of 
Practical Reason, moreover, though simple enough in its details, 
stands more in need of elucidation and commentary, so far as its 
principle is concerned, than the Critique of Pure Reason. 

Kant. 139 

the intelligible or moral world, the realm of things-in- 
themselves, and the world of experience, of phenomena. 
The ethical idealism with which the Kantian theory 
closes, comes nearer to the Fichtian position than can be 
made apparent without more lengthy analysis of Kant 
than is here possible ; but even in it we rind the same 
tendency to separation which is the harassing feature of all 
the Kantian work. Fichte, it must be held, was justified 
in his constant complaint that in Kant there were really 
three theories which are never amalgamated. " Kant," 
he remarks in an instructive passage in the * Nachgelas- 
seneAYerke, "had three absolutes. . . . In the Critique 
of Pure Reason, sense-experience was for him the abso 
lute ( = x) ; and in regard to the ideas, the higher, intel 
ligible world, he expressed himself in a most depreciatory 
fashion. From his earlier works, and from hints in the 
Critique itself, it may certainly be inferred that he 
would not have halted at that position ; but I will engage 
to show that these hints are mere inconsequences of 
reasoning, for if his principles were consistently followed 
out, the supersensible world must vanish entirely, and 
as the only noumenon there would remain that which 
is to be realised in experience. . . . The loftier moral 
nature of the man corrected his philosophical error, and 
so appeared the * Critique of Practical Reason. In it 
was manifested the categorical notion of the Ego as 
something in itself, which could never have appeared in 
the * Critique of Pure Reason ; we have thus a second 
absolute, a moral world ( = z). But all the phenomena 
of human nature were not thereby explained. The rela 
tions of the beautiful, of the sublime, and of end in 
nature, which palpably were neither theoretical nor 

140 Fichte. 

moral notions, yet remained. Moreover, what is of much 
greater importance, the empirical world was now absorbed 
in the moral world, as a world in itself, a just retribu 
tion, as it were, for the first victory of the empirical. 
There appeared, then, the Critique of Judgment, in 
the introduction to which the most remarkable portion 
of that remarkable work it was acknowledged that the 
supersensible and the sensible worlds must have some 
common though undiscoverable root, which root is the 
third absolute (=y). I say a third, separate from the 
two preceding and independent, although giving unity 
to them ; and in this I do Kant no wrong, For if this 
y is undiscoverable, it may contain the other two ; but 
we cannot comprehend how it does so, or deduce them 
from it. If, on the other hand, it is to be comprehended, 
it must be comprehended as absolute ; and there remain, 
as before, three absolutes." l 

The Kantian philosophy, while definitely formulating 
the first principle of speculation, thus left unsolved a 
whole series of problems, all of them arising in connec 
tion with one line of thought, and furnishing the mate 
rial for later efforts at systematic development of the 
principle from which it started. With more or less 
clearness the thinkers who immediately followed Kant 
undertook the solution of these problems, and their work 
to a large extent determined the character of the Fichtean 
system, and was incorporated into it. Thus Reinhold s 
constant demand for unity of principle is recognised by 
Fichte as an attempt in the right direction, though 
the principle selected by him, that of representation 

1 Nachgelassene Werke, vol. ii. pp. 102-104. See also Leben und 
Brief wechsel, vol. ii. p. 177. 

Kant. 141 

(Vorstellung) as the fundamental fact of consciousness, 
was incapable of yielding any result more satisfactory 
than had been presented in the Kantian philosophy. 
Reinhold evidently felt the difficulty of bringing subject 
and object into any connection whatsoever, if they were 
assumed as originally distinct. He therefore proposed 
to select as starting-point the existence of the conscious 
state or representation, in which subject and object are 
contained as factors, and endeavoured by analysis of this 
fact to deduce the several doctrines which in a less co 
herent form had been brought forward by Kant. But 
in the first place, as Fichte points out in the Review of 
^Enesidemus, l the primary datum of philosophical con 
struction cannot be a fact or representation, but musf 
be the simple and original activity by which the facthe 
representation conies to be; and in the second ping, 
as had been made quite apparent by the sceptical Vl^ 
ticism of /Enesidemus (Schulze), the idea of Vorstel- 
lung involved that doctrine which above all others was 
a stumbling-block to the Kantians, the doctrine that 
the matter or definite content of Vorstellung was deter 
mined ab extra, by things-in-themselves. So, too, Beck s 
acute restatement of the Kantian theory had brought 
into the clearest light the gross misconceptions which 
might readily arise from Kant s mode of stating his 
doctrines. To many of the Kantians, indeed, the theory 
of the a priori character of the forms of perception and 
thought had been nothing but a revival, in the crudest 
sense, of the old doctrine of innate ideas. To them 
Kant s idea of self-consciousness, as conditioning know 
ledge, had meant that the individual subject was some- 
i < Werke, vol. i. p. 9. Cf. vol. i. p. 468. 

142 FichU. 

how acted upon by things, and that in consequence of 
the a priori or innate mechanism of consciousness, the 
effects of such action took of necessity the forms of 
space and time and the categories. Beck s admirable 
discussion of the Kantian distinctions between analytic 
and synthetic judgments, sjoithetic a priori and syn 
thetic a posteriori truths, intuition and thought, pheno 
mena and things-in-themselves, sufficiently showed that 
these were but excrescences on the Kantian doctrine, 
merely temporary expedients for bringing the real prob 
lems into light ; while the definiteness with which he 
expressed the cardinal doctrine of Kant s theory, the 
original synthetic unity of self-consciousness, threw light 
\)n all the subordinate points. 1 At the same time, Beck 
fronanced no sufficient grounds for the original posit- 
it n of the object, which according to him is the very 
essence of the activity of self-consciousness. His the 
ory failed to explain how and why it is that for the sub-, 
ject there is necessarily the object, the non-Ego. It 
left still in isolation the separate elements which had 
been thrown together by Kant. Finally, the acute criti 
cisms of Maimon, for whose talent Fichte expresses un 
bounded admiration, had shown to demonstration how 
utterly inconsistent with the genuine Kantian doctrine 
was the commonly received view of the thing-in-itself. 
He too, however, misconceived Kant s idea of self- 
consciousness, found himself perplexed by the problem 
of the relation between the categories or forms of thought 

1 Beck s Einzig-moglicher Standpunckt (Riga, 1796), though not 
written with much skill, is yet one of the best and most instructive 
commentaries on the Kritik, and should be neglected by no student 
of Kant. 

Kant. 143 

and the given matter of sense, proceeded to accept ex 
perience as consisting of a given series of phenomenal 
states, with the attributes of space and time, rejected 
therefore all a priori truths except the mathematical 
or quantitative, and thus left untouched the deeper 
problems raised by the Kritik. 

The way had thus been prepared for Fichte s endeav 
our to take up in a comprehensive fashion the speculative 
question as it had been formulated by Kant, and to work 
into an organic whole what had been left by Kant in a 
fragmentary form. The artificial and sometimes forced 
fashion in which the AVissenschaf tslehre at first pro 
ceeded must not disguise from us the genuine nature of 
the task Fichte had set before him, or the principle 
which underlies it. Firm adherence to the idea of the 
transcendental method ; determination to accept nothing, 

iiether as fact, law, or notion, which is not deducible 
from self-consciousness and its necessary conditions, 
such is the spirit of the Fichtean philosophy, and from 
it follows the demand for systematic unity of conception, 
for a single principle out of which the multiplicity of 
experience may be deduced, and therefore for a single, 
all-embracing philosophical science. It is this very con 
sistency which renders the detailed study of the Fichtean 
system a matter of so much difficulty, for if the funda 
mental idea be not grasped, and as Fichte truly says, 
his philosophy is either to be mastered at a stroke or not 
at all, little or none of the help which even Kant 
affords is extended to the student. The familiar psycho 
logical distinctions which furnish natural divisions in 
the Kantian theory of knowledge, are entirely j V. 
ing in the Wissenschaftslehre. Sense, 

144 Fichte. 

reason, are not assumed as rubrics under which special 
kinds of knowledge may be arranged, but are regarded 
as specific modes in the development or realisation of 
self-consciousness, and appear in their determined posi 
tion in the series of necessary acts by which self-con 
sciousness is realised. The notions by which popular or 
unphilosophical thinking manages to explain to itself 
the nature of things e.g.^ the notion of cause by which 
we think the relation of objects to the variable contents 
of our representations are not accepted or permitted to 
pass until they have been deduced, or shown to arise in 
the development of the necessary conditions of self- 
consciousness. The Kantian categories, the anoma 
lous position of which had given occasion to grave mis 
understanding of the very meaning of the system, are 
not in any way assumed as pre-existing forms into which 
matter falls ; but object as formed by the category, and 
category as form of the object, are deduced together. 

If Wissenschaftslehre is to accomplish its object 
the systematic evolution of all that enters into conscious 
ness its starting-point must be found in that which 
renders any consciousness or knowledge possible. Such 
starting-point, by its very nature, cannot be a demon 
strable fact, nor can it be comprehended in strict logical 
fashion, that is, brought under a notion. All certainty 
rests ultimately oil immediate evidence or intuition. The 
first condition, therefore, of consciousness, must be real 
ised by us in the form of intuition. But the said first 
condition of consciousness is manifestly the conscious- 
3ss of self. "Along with whatever any intelligence 

wn e*- ga Ferrier. whose statement may here be ac- 

commei. J 

of Kant. " "lace of any more elaborate treatment, " it must, 

His Starting Point. 145 

as the ground or condition of its knowledge, have some 
cognisance of itself." To the speculative inquirer, en 
deavouring to reconstruct that which is immediately 
given in experience, the first and common ground for all 
experience is the result of that act whereby the Ego or 
self becomes an Ego or self. Of the necessary impli 
cations of this fundamental activity and its product, 
nothing requires at first to be said ; philosophy is simply 
the attempt to give a systematic and complete account of 
them. But no philosophy can transcend the fact ; and 
any problem referring to that which is absolutely dis 
severed from the result of the fact, must be dismissed as 
in terms contradictory and absurd. To ask, for example, 
whether the activity by which the Ego becomes an Ego 
does not presuppose the prior existence, in reality, in 
an objective fashion, of the Ego, is merely to make 
"wonderful assumption that the Ego is something dif-^" 
ferent from its own consciousness of itself, and that ia ^ 
something, heaven knows what, lying beyond this con- n ~ 
sciousness, is the foundation of it," 1 and to introduce 1S 
notions of a complex and hypothetical character, such as " 
existence and time, into the explanation of that with T 
reference to which only have such notions significance. v 
Doubtless, to the popular consciousness, thought presents 
itself as merely one, and probably one of the least im 
portant, of the facts of experience, as arising from and 
dependent on the nature of things. But philosophy and 
popular thinking move on different platforms, and most 
of the gravest errors in speculation arise from the trans 
ference of considerations which are in due place in one 
of them into the other, where they are absolute absurdi- 

1 <Werke, vol. i. p. 460. 
P. IV. K 

146 FicUe. 

ties. The philosophical construction of the world of 
experience is not to be confused with the world of expe 
rience itself, nor is it to be taken as a natural i.e., psy 
chological history of the development of the individual 
mind. 1 If in the development of the necessary condi 
tions of self-consciousness, it is shown how the notion 
of a non-Ego arises, if feeling and representation are 
deduced, it is not to be supposed that by such process 
of deduction these, as facts of experience, are produced. 
Production and genetic construction of the contents of 
consciousness are totally distinct. Life, as Fichte puts it, 
is non-philosophising, and philosophy is non-living. 

The intuition of the activity, whose product is the 
reflex act of consciousness an activity the exact nature 
of which will presently be considered Fichte calls in 
tellectual intuition. The name is unfortunate, both as 
regards his predecessor Kant, and as regards his suc 
cessor Schelling, for, in their systems, the same term is 
employed to denote two quite diverse facts. In the 
critical philosophy, intellectual intuition was used to 
indicate the supposed mode of consciousness by which a 
knowledge of things-in-themselves might be obtained, 
and was therefore regarded as contradictory of the very 
principles of the system. Fichte has little difficulty in 
showing that, so far as this meaning of the term is con 
cerned, there is no difference of opinion between Kant 
and himself ; but he, at the same time, points out that 
the whole critical analysis rested upon the fact of the 
unity of consciousness (or, as Kant called it, the unity 
of apperception), and that for this unity no name was 
so appropriate as that of intellectual intuition. On the 
1 Werke, vol. i. pp. 397-399. Cf. vol. v. pp. 333 et seq. 

Intellectual Intuition. 147 

other hand, in Schelling s system, intellectual intui 
tion was employed to denote the consciousness of the 
absolute, of the identity between subject and object ; 
and, in so far, there is a certain resemblance between 
his use of the term and that of Fichte. There was, 
however, a fundamental difference between the two 
thinkers in regard to this identity of subject and object; 
and in his later writings, Fichte, to emphasise his oppo 
sition to Schelling, generally employed the expression, 
free activity r , to denote the fundamental act and product 
of the Ego. 

In calling the consciousness of the fundamental activ 
ity of the Ego intuition, Fichte had a twofold object. 
He desired to bring into prominence the fact that he is 
not starting with any abstract notion, but with the activ 
ity of the Ego an activity not to be designated thought, 
or will, or by any other complex, and therefore mislead 
ing, term ; and further, to indicate from the outset what 
was the peculiar nature of the general method of Wissen- 
schaftslehre. For an intuition is never a datum which is 
simply received in experience. It is invariably the pro 
duct of a constructive act. The intuition of a triangle, for 
example, is the consciousness of a definite and necessarily 
determined procedure of construction within the limita 
tions of space ; and in this process of construction we see 
intuitively the connection of the elements, we see how 
each subsequent portion of the construction is determined 
by what has preceded ; and as the process is general, 
determined only by the conditions of space, we are at the 
same time aware of the generality of the result. Intuitive 
knowledge, therefore, is genetic, and Wissenschaftslehre, 
the systematic consciousness of what is contained in the 

1 48 Fichte. 

fundamental intellectual intuition, must likewise be 
genetic in method. Wissenschaftslehre will show " that 
the fundamental proposition, posited and immediately 
known as existent in consciousness, is impossible unless 
under a further condition, and that this further condi 
tion is likewise impossible unless a third be added, 
until the conditions of the first are completely devel 
oped, and the possibility of the same completely com 
prehended." l It will " construct the whole common 
consciousness of all rational beings in its fundamental 
characteristics, with pure a priori evidence, just as geom 
etry constructs, with pure a priori evidence, the general 
modes of limitation of space by all rational beings. It 
starts from the simplest and most characteristic quality 
of self- consciousness, the intuition of the Ego, 2 and, under 
the assumption that the completely qualified self-con 
sciousness is the final result of all the other qualifica 
tions of consciousness, proceeds until this is thoroughly 
deduced. To each link in the chain of these qualifica 
tions a new one is added, and it is clear, in the direct 
intuition of them, that the same addition must take place 
in the consciousness of every rational being. Call the 
Ego A. Then, in the intuition of the construction of 
A, it is seen that B is inseparably connected with it. 
In the intuition of the construction of B, it is equally 
clear that C is an inseparable link, and so on, till we 
reach the final member of A, completed self-conscious 
ness, which manifests itself as complete and perfect." 3 

1 Werke/ vol. i. p. 446. 

2 Fichte s expression, Anschaung der Ich-heit, is more exact, but, 
I think, untranslatable into English. 

3 <Werke, vol. ii. pp. 379, 380. 

Completed Self -consciousness. 149 

No commentary upon these passages seems necessary, 
save perhaps on the expression, " completed self-con 
sciousness," of which, indeed, the system itself is the best 
explanation. On both sides, this notion of completed 
self -consciousness requires to be guarded or denned with 
regard to its essence as seZ/-consciousness, and with re 
gard to its completion. To popular thinking, self-con 
sciousness is identical with individuality, with the 
knowledge of self as a personal, active being, related to 
others, and to a universe of things. But it is at once 
evident that knowledge of individuality in this sense is a 
complex fact, and a fact of which the ground or possi 
bility must be sought in the original act whereby the 
subject is conscious at all. "The Ego of real conscious 
ness is always particular, and isolated : it is a person 
among other persons, each of whom describes himself as 
an Ego ; and Wissenschaftslehre must develop up to the 
point at which such consciousness is explained. Totally 
distinct from this is the Ego from which AYissenschafts- 
lehre starts ; for this is nothing but the identity of the 
conscious subject with that of which it is conscious. 
Abstraction from all else that is contained in personal 
ity is necessary in order to attain this point of view." J 
Self-consciousness, in fact, is the common element in all 
knowledge and action, and therefore cannot in itself con 
tain that which is special and particular to the individ 
ual. "It is the ground of individuality ; for without it 
there could not possibly be the developed, concrete con 
sciousness of personality; but as ground, it is distinct 
from that which is conditioned by it. We may call it, 
if we choose, the pure Ego, or form of the Ego, Fichte, 
i < Werke, vol. ii. p. 382. Cf. Briefwechsel, p. 166. 

150 FichU. 

as above noted, occasionally employs the untranslatable 
term Ich-heit, but under whatever fashion of speech, 
we have to recognise in it the indispensable condition 
of all consciousness. Intellectual intuition lies at the 
basis of all more developed modes of mental action. 

What, then, is to be understood by completed self- 
consciousness 1 Evidently, the realisation in conscious 
ness of all that can be shown to be necessarily implied 
or involved in intellectual intuition as such. For it may 
very well happen that the peculiar activity of the Ego, in 
becoming conscious of itself, implies a number of inter 
mediate stages, such, for instance, as the definite sepa 
ration of subject and object, self and not-self j the definite 
representation of each of these under special forms ; the 
recognition of a plurality of individual active beings, with 
rights and duties ; and all of these may speculatively be 
exhibited as following from, and dependent on, self-con 
sciousness itself. In that case, completed self-conscious 
ness would mean, not simply the abstract moment of 
self-identity, but the consciousness to which the indi 
vidual may arrive, that he occupies a place in an ideal 
system of conscious beings, in an ideal order ; that his 
finite existence is to be regarded as the continuous effort 
to realise what is implied in that position ; arid thus, 
that his individuality is lost or absorbed in the univer 
sal, rational order. All knowledge and the varied forms 
of law, of state mechanism, of moral duties, of religious 
beliefs, would thus appear to consciousness as necessary 
elements of the scheme or plan of the ideal world ; and 
the consciousness of this ideal system, which it is the 
business of speculative philosophy to describe, would be 
completed self-consciousness. This is, in substance, the 

The Ego as Idea. 151 

distinction which Fichte indicates between the Ego as 
intellectual intuition, and the Ego as idea. " The idea 
of the Ego has only this in common with the Ego as in 
tuition, that in both the Ego is thought as not individ 
ual, in the latter, because the form of the Ego is not 
yet defined to the point of individuality ; in the former, 
conversely, because the individual is lost in thought and 
action according to universal laws. The two are opposed 
in this, that in the Ego as intuition only the form of the 
Ego is to be found, and no reference can be made to any 
special matter, which indeed becomes conceivable only 
when the thought of a world arises in the Ego while, on 
the other hand, in the Ego as idea, the whole matter of 
the Ego is thought. From the first, speculative cognition 
proceeds, and to the latter it tends : only in the practical 
sphere can the idea be posited as the ultimate goal of 
the efforts of reason. The first is original intuition, 
and becomes for us, when treated by thought, a notion 
(Begriff) : the latter is idea only ; it cannot be thought 
in a determinate fashion ; it can never exist realiter, but 
we must continuously approximate to it." l It need not 
surprise us that Eichte, at this period of his philosophical 
reflection, should frequently use the term God as equiva 
lent to the pure Ego, regarded as idea. Such a doctrine 
can appear startling only if we identify self-consciousness 
with individuality, and if we fail to see that were God 
not involved in self-consciousness, His existence must be 
for ever contingent or unnecessary for thought. We have 
here one of the points on which it is instructive to 

1 Werke, vol. i. p. 516. The distinction here taken between 
Begriff and Idee is, on the whole, Kantian. The passage implies 
much that can only be made intelligible through the system itself. 

152 Ficlite. 

note the difference between "Fichte s position and that 
of Spinoza. For Spinoza, as for philosophy in general, 
the supreme problem is to connect the particular with 
the system of which it is a part, a problem which we 
may call the reduction of the many to one, or by what 
phrase we please. Now the one and the many are defi 
nitely described by Spinoza, but so separated as to ren 
der transition or union wellnigh impossible. As in the 
Eleatic system, so in that of Spinoza, the two elements 
fall asunder. It is true that Spinoza seems to have 
thought the problem solved by pointing to the impossi 
bility of thinking the particular or finite, save as in rela 
tion to the infinite ; but his treatment of this necessity 
of thinking is the weak point in his system. Modes of 
thought become for him so many finite objects, mutually 
determining and determined; and any relation to sub 
stance is thus, for them, impossible. To an intellect 
regarding finite modes from without, it might well be 
impossible to think of them, except as limitations of the 
infinite substance ; but no such thought is possible for 
the finite modes themselves. The two notions with 
which Spinoza works substance and mutual determina 
tion are irreconcilable ; and their subjective counter 
parts, understanding and imagination, are, in a similar 
fashion, left standing side by side. 1 It is on account of 
this failure to unite the two elements of his system that 
Fichte classes Spinoza as a dogmatist, and points out that 

1 Expositions of Spinoza are frequently imperfect from laying undue 
stress on one of these elements. Mr Pollock s recent very able state 
ment entirely rejects or casts in the shade the first of them. Spinoza 
is treated throughout as working with the important scientific notion 
of mutual determination. 

First Principles. 153 

his own doctrine, on the speculative side, is Spinozism, 
but, as containing the higher synthesis, an inverted or 
spiritualised Spinozism. The same criticism is con 
tained in Hegel s pregnant remark, that Spinoza s error 
lay in regarding God as substance, and not as spirit. 

Before passing to the more explicit statement of the 
development of self-consciousness i.e., to the systematic 
portion of the AVissenschaftslehre it may be remarked 
that in this notion of the Ego as both abstract unity 
and concrete fulness, we have the transition from the 
Kantian to the later philosophy of Hegel. For Hegel as 
for .Fichte, philosophy is the systematic development of 
thought from its most abstract moment to the fulness 
and wealth of real existence, and the culminating point 
is the complete consciousness of thought as that which, 
systematically developed, is the reality of existence. In 
treatment of many problems the two thinkers differ ; in 
matter, and to a large extent in form, they are at one. 


As science of science, or theory of that which is pre 
supposed in all consciousness, Wissenschaftslehre must 
take its origin from that which is in itself unsusceptible 
of proof. Its first principle cannot be a proposition for 
which reasons can be advanced; it cannot even be the 
expression of a fact which is given in experience ; but it 
must express that which lies at the basis of all experi 
ence, of all consciousness. The matter of the first prin 
ciple must therefore be unconditioned, and equally so 
the form. "We may indeed assume that alongside of 
this absolutely unconditioned first principle, two other 
propositions may be given, two expressions of necessary 

154 Fichte. 

acts in the development of self-consciousness, the one, 
unconditioned in form though determined as regards 
matter ; the other, unconditioned in matter, though 
determined as regards form. More than these three 
there cannot be assumed; all other propositions in the 
theory of consciousness must be deducible from them. 

What, then, is the first principle of the Wissenschafts- 
lehre 1 Evidently, from the exposition already given of 
the nature of this science, the first principle can be no 
thing but an explicit statement of the very innermost 
nature of self-consciousness. For all consciousness, and 
therefore all experience, is determined by self-conscious 
ness, and stands under it as its supreme condition. The 
first truth must therefore be the express statement of 
that fundamental activity by which consciousness comes 
to be. Beyond all doubt this fundamental activity is 
not to be thought as an object in consciousness, as one of 
the facts which AVC may discover by inner observation. 
As opposed to all the mechanical necessity under which 
facts appear for us, this activity is freedom as such, pure 
action, which, indeed, is or has being, but is not to be 
regarded as being. 

The explicit statement of this fundamental activity is 
reached in Fichte s first systematic work, the Grundlage 
des Wissenschaftslehre, by a somewhat artificial method ; 
and unfortunately, the few pages containing the appli 
cation of this method not only exhaust the ordinary 
student s knowledge of the system, but supply almost all 
that is given of Fichte s doctrine in the ordinary histories 
of philosophy. To this cause one must refer much of 
the misunderstanding which has undoubtedly existed 
regarding the true nature of Fichte s speculative work. 

First Principles. 155 

The method is certainly artificial, but as the activity in 
question is absolutely unconditioned, there is not, as it 
were, any one defined road by which it is to be ap 
proached. Eichte, accordingly, proposes to take an un 
deniable fact of ordinary, empirical thought, and by cri 
ticism to show what is implied in it. The fact selected 
is the well-known logical or formal law of identity, A 
is A. A is A; that is, independently of all material 
considerations as to what A may be, this at least is true, 
that it is itself, it is A. But such a purely formal 
proposition makes no assertion regarding the positing or 
affirming of A. It asserts merely that if A is posited, 
then it is = A : in other words, it asserts the absolute 
and unconditioned validity of a certain nexus or bond 
= x. The nexus or bond, the law according to which 
we judge that A is A, is only in consciousness, is only 
for the Ego ; consequently the proposition A = A may be 
expressed thus : A is for the Ego simply and solely by 
virtue of being affirmed or posited in the Ego ; and the 
nexus (x), the ground of this identity, is the affirmation 
of the existence of the Ego, / am. Only in and for a 
consciousness that is aware of its own identity, can the 
law A = A have validity. The unity and identity of 
self-consciousness thus lies at the basis of all empirical 
consciousness, for all empirical consciousness falls under 
the rule, A = A. But if the proposition A = A, valid for 
all empirical consciousness, has validity only because it 
is grounded on the fact of the identity of self-conscious 
ness, Ego = Ego, this identity must be the pure act of 
the Ego itself, the mere expression or product of the 
activity by which the Ego is the Ego at all. Self-affir 
mation, then, is given simply, unconditionally, as the 

156 Fickte. 

being of the Ego. The Ego is, because it posits itself 
as being ; it posits itself as being, because it is. The 
fundamental activity of all consciousness is thus the 
affirmation of itself by the Ego. " The Ego posits origi 
nally and simply its own being." l 

The method of arriving at this first proposition, one 
absolutely unconditioned in matter as in form, for the 
Ego is the common condition of all matter of conscious 
ness in general, and the affirmation of its self-identity, 
the form of the proposition, is not prescribed to it from 
without, is otherwise given by Fichte in his later ex 
positions. 2 In them the reader is called upon to make 
the experiment of thinking any given object, and then of 
thinking the Ego. In the first act, the characteristic 
feature is the definite and recognised distinction in con 
sciousness between the subject thinking and the object 
thought. In the second, it is equally plain that the 
Ego thought and the Ego thinking are one and the same. 
t- The activity of thought is reflected upon itself, and in 
this reflection upon self consists the very essence of the 
Ego, or of self-consciousness. " The procedure of "\Yis- 
senschaftslehre is the following : it requires each one to 
note what he necessarily does when he calls himself, I. 
It assumes that every one who really performs the re 
quired act, will find that he affirms himself, or, which 
may be clearer to many, that he is at the same time sub 
ject and object. In this absolute identity of subject and 

1 Werke/ vol. i. p. 98. 

2 In the two " Introductions to Wissenschaftslehre," in the New 
Exposition/ and in the Sonnenklarer Bericht. The posthumous 
"Exposition from the year 1801" ( Werke, vol. ii. pp. 1-162) con 
tains in its first part ( 1-29) a most elaborate but excessively com 
plicated and obscure analysis of the same fundamental condition. 

First Principles. 157 

object consists the very nature of the Ego. The Ego is 
that which cannot be subject, without being, in the same 
indivisible act, object and cannot be object, without 
being, in the same indivisible act, subject ; and con 
versely, whatever has this characteristic, is Ego \ the two 
expressions are the same." 1 

Thus the first proposition is the explicit statement 
of that which underlies all consciousness, of the act 
whereby consciousness is possible, It is the same propo 
sition which implicitly had appeared in the critical philo 
sophy under the term unity of apperception ; but the 
full significance of it had not been developed by Kant. 
Beyond this truth no philosophy can go, and all true 
philosophy depends upon the recognition of it. Any 
metaphysical theorem which assumes an origin or cause 
for consciousness transcending this first, primitive affir 
mation of the Ego by itself, is self-convicted of incom 
pleteness and absurdity. 

It is perhaps needless to note that the Ego referred to 
is not to be identified with the individual or person. 
Each individual or person has in common the conscious 
ness of self, without which he exists not at all ; but to 
be individual or person, more is required than is con 
tained in self-consciousness. Accordingly, as we shall 
later see, although Fichte will not deny to God self- 
consciousness in the sense here analysed, he will not 
admit that God is personal or individual. To identify 
any one thing or person with self - consciousness is 
absurd. Self-consciousness is not a thing or fact to be 
observed ; just as little is God one among the objects of 

i Werke, vol. ii. pp. 441, 442. Cf. Werke, vol. i. pp. 522, 523, 

158 Fichte. 

experience to be thought of as coexisting with finite 
spirits, conditioning or determining them, and in turn 
conditioned or determined by them. There is, and can 
be, from the position of pure thought, no God except 
the ideal system which is involved in self-consciousness, 
and in which finite spirits have a definite place and 

The fundamental mode of activity, the position of the 
Ego by itself, if regarded in abstmcto, is the logical law 
of identity i.e. t no identity of object can be thought 
apart from the identity of the thinking self. If regarded 
as in application to objects, it is the category of reality. 
All reality is in and for the Ego. The categories are 
merely the necessary modes of action of self-conscious 
ness viewed objectively, or in relation to the object. 

Alongside of this first principle, which is uncondi 
tioned both in matter and in form, there may be placed 
for the purposes of the Wissenschaftslehre two further 
principles, one unconditioned in form but conditioned 
in matter, the other conditioned as to form but uncondi 
tioned as to matter. By an artificial procedure resem 
bling that adopted in the case of the first principle, 
Fichte brings forward the second, on the nature and 
position of which the greatest misconception has pre 

As certainly as the proposition, A = A, appears in em 
pirical consciousness, so certainly appears the allied but 
distinct proposition, Not- A does not = A. This propo 
sition is not to be taken as a mere reduplication in nega 
tive form of the rule of identity ; it is not equivalent to 
the judgment, Not- A = Not- A. For there is implied in 
it a new element, Not- A, and a totally new and distinct 

First Principles. 159 

act, that of opposing to A its negative, Not-A. So far 
as matter is concerned, the proposition is determined ; for 
if there is to be op-positing at all, that which is opposed 
to A can only be Not- A. But the form of the proposi 
tion, the act of negation, is not conditioned by the form 
of affirmation. Now, if we treat this proposition as we 
treated the first, resolving it into its ultimate terms, we 
have as result the opposition, in the Ego, of Ego and non- 
Ego. In the Ego, the non-Ego is opposed to the Ego. 
This second proposition is fundamental in the Eichtean 
philosophy, but at the same time its significance is not 
immediately evident. On the one hand, it is clear what 
is not to be understood by the non-Ego in question. The 
non-Ego is not the thing-in-itself. It is impossible and 
contradictory that the Ego should affirm for itself the 
being of that which, by definition, is not for the Ego. 
On the other hand, it is not yet plain, and, indeed, it 
only becomes plain from much later developments of the 
system, what is the precise nature of the act of op- 
positing or negating. The obscurity which rests over 
the proposition arises from two sources. In the first 
place, Fichte accepts, as given, a fact of empirical con 
sciousness, the fact of difference or opposition, and shows 
that for a self-conscious subject, the ultimate ground of 
all difference is the distinction of self and not-self. No 
opposition or difference in empirical knowledge is con 
ceivable, if the Ego has not in itself the moment of 
difference. As mere abstract statement of what is im 
plied in real consciousness, the proposition has, therefore, 
unconditioned truth ; but it has not thereby been made 
clear how real consciousness, which is determined or 
limited, is related to the pure unity of self-consciousness 

160 Fichte. 

as such. All limitation is negation this is fundamental 
for Fichte as for Spinoza, and in the second proposition 
the ground of the maxim is given but it is not thereby 
explained why or how there should be limitation at all. 
In the second place, the all-important distinction between 
the abstract and concrete moments of self-consciousness 
is easily overlooked. Fichte is here giving expression 
to the most abstract aspect of consciousness, which 
becomes real or concrete only after the introduction 
of many other elements. The non-Ego referred to 
is the abstract aspect of that which in the further 
movement of thought presents itself as the world of 
objects, but it is not in itself the concrete, represented 

The first proposition, as was said, is not in Fichte s 
later expositions approached in the artificial manner 
adopted in the Grundlage ; still less is this the case in 
regard to the second fundamental act. In the later works, 
specially in the Darstellung aus dem Jahre, 1801, and 
in the posthumous lectures, the statement is much more 
concrete and intelligible. Self -affirmation of the Ego is 
the primitive activity of consciousness. But such primi 
tive activity is in itself but the ground of consciousness. 
The Ego, to be real, must be aware of its own activity as 
affirming itself. This becoming aware of its own ac 
tivity Fichte calls reflection ; and it is easily seen that 
the essential feature of reflection is self-limitation of the 
Ego. But limitation is negation; the Ego becomes aware 
of its own activity as self-positing only in and by oppo 
sition to self. Infinite activity i.e., activity related 
only to itself is never, as such, conscious activity. 
" Consciousness works through reflection, and reflection 

First Principles. 161 

is only through limitation." 1 So soon as we reflect upon 
the activity of the Ego, the Ego is necessarily finite ; 
so soon as the Ego is conscious of its finitude, it is con 
scious of striving beyond these limits, and so of its in 
finitude. Were the question raised, Is the Ego, then, 
infinite 1 the Ego, by the very question, is finite. Is the 
Ego finite 1 then, to be aware of finitude, it is necessarily 
infinite ; and so on, in endless alternation. 

The abstract expression of this alternation between 
subject and object as in relation to one another, is con 
tained in the third fundamental proposition, that from 
which the Wissenschaftslehre definitely takes its start. 

The second proposition has brought forward a non- 
Ego, which is in every respect the negative of the Ego. 
Whatever is affirmed regarding the one must be explicitly 
denied of the other. But, if we consider our two pro 
positions, we shall find not only that they contradict one 
another, but that each proposition, taken in respect of 
the other, contradicts itself. For if the non-Ego is pos 
ited, the Ego is negated ; but the Ego is absolute reality, 
and consequently the non-Ego is only posited through 
the Ego. The Ego, therefore, both posits and negates 
itself. It is in itself a contradiction, or unites contradic 
tions in itself. It is evidently impossible that both can 
be negated ; it is equally impossible that one should be 
negated by the other. The only solution is to be found 
in some act of the Ego by which it is limited as regards 
the non-Ego, and by which the non-Ego is limited as re 
gards the Ego : the Ego shall, in part, negate the non- 
Ego; the non-Ego shall, in part, negate the Ego. So cer- 

1 Werke, vol. i. p. 269. Cf. Darstellung, a. d. J., 1801, 17, 
28, 29 ; < Nachgelassene Werke, vol. i. p. 79 ; vol. ii. pp. 339, 349. 
P. IV. L 

162 Fichte. 

tainly, therefore, as the two fundamental propositions are 
true, as certainly can they be combined in the unity of 
self -consciousness, only if the Ego posit in itself a divis 
ible Ego as limited by a divisible non-Ego. In this third 
proposition the form is conditioned, for by the needs of 
the prior maxims it is prescribed what the activity must 
be ; the matter is unconditioned, for the notion by which 
the union is effected that of limitation is not prescribed 
beforehand. The third proposition, therefore, completes 
the principles of Wissenschaftslehre : henceforth each 
step in the evolution of self-consciousness can and must 
be proved to follow with demonstrative evidence from 

Moreover, the connection of the three principles, and 
especially the mode by which the third of them was at 
tained, shows clearly what must be the method of evolu 
tion. The very essence of self -consciousness, in its double 
moments of self-position and reflection, is the union of 
contradictory aspects. Thesis and antithesis are the 
formal expressions of the activity lying at the root of 
consciousness. But contradictions can only be for a self- 
conscious subject when united or contained in some more 
concrete synthesis. Limitation has manifested itself as 
the first synthesis ; but, narrowly examined, the members 
there united will be seen to manifest new contradictions, 
which again require to be resolved into some richer, more 
concrete notion. The course of procedure is thus the 
continuous analysis of the antithetical moments of each 
notion, and the synthetical union of them : the goal is 
the complete synthetical union of the original opposition 
of the Ego and the non-Ego in consciousness. Term 
after term will be introduced, until at last the gap between 

Development of the System. 163 

these two is filled up, and the final synthesis either at 
tained or the full ground for its unattainability made 
clear. The successive acts by which the new synthesis 
comes forward, yield, in abstracto, the forms of the cate 
gories, which will thus be deduced systematically, not 
accepted haphazard, as in the critical philosophy. The 
successive modes of consciousness, in and through which 
the categories receive application to objects, will be rigor 
ously developed, and not taken from empirical psychol 
ogy. Wissenschaftslehre is thus not only logic, in the 
highest sense of the term, but also a phenomenology or 
pragmatic history of consciousness. 


The fundamental principles contain the groundwork, 
not only of the developed system of the Wissenschafts 
lehre in its earlier form, but also of the more abstruse 
metaphysical view to which Fichte, at a later period, ad 
vanced. The union of opposites, as the very essence of 
consciousness, and the reference of the opposed members 
to the identity of the absolute Ego, although very differ 
ently expressed, remain common ground for both the 
earlier and the later systematic treatments. In the first 
form of Wissenschaftslehre, however, the interest centres 
mainly in the deduction of the consequences involved 
in the original synthesis ; in the later exposition, the 
synthesis itself, as a whole, is interpreted in a new and 
more concrete fashion. 

As it is impossible here to follow the details of the 
elaborate and compressed reasoning by which Fichte, in 
the Grundlage and * Grundriss des Eigenthiimlichen d. 
Wissenschaftslehre, traces the successive stages or aspects 

164 FicMe. 

of thought contained in the primitive synthesis, it will 
be advisable to preface a summary of his results by a 
freer and less technical statement of their significance. 

The original synthesis in the Ego, the divisible Ego 
is opposed to the divisible non-Ego evidently contains 
two propositions, each of which may be subjected to 
analytic treatment; l for, in the first place, it is implied 
in our proposition that the Ego posits the non-Ego as 
determined by the Ego ; and in the second place, it is 
implied that the Ego posits itself as determined by the 
non-Ego. The second of these is the fundamental pro 
position for the theoretical Wissenschaftslehre that is, 
it expresses the very essence of the Ego as intelligence 
generally. The first is the expression of the essence of 
the Ego as practical. The ultimate synthesis must be 
found in that notion in which the theoretical and prac 
tical activities of the Ego are identified. At the present 
stage, such ultimate synthesis appears problematical in 
fact, and scarcely conceivable in thought. The approach to 
it must be effected by following out the two isolated expres 
sions according to the general method already recognised. 
We may thus hope to make clear, first, what the non- 
Ego, as in thought, must be for the Ego ; in other words, 
we may hope to obtain a complete survey of the formal 
determinations of thought in and through which it is 
possible for a non-Ego to be presented to intelligence. 
How there should be a non-Ego at all will not thereby 
be explained ; but for solution of this problem we may 

1 The treatment is analytic, inasmuch as we reflectively expound 
the oppositions contained in a given synthesis ; but the act of con 
sciousness through which these oppositions are given and resolved, is 
not analytic, but a continuous series of synthetic combinations. 

Development of the System. 165 

look, in the second place, to the development of the nature 
of the Ego as practical. 

Theoretical Wissenschaftslehre is thus the systematic 
development of the form of consciousness in which Ego 
and non-Ego are opposed, and so opposed that the Ego 
is determined by the non-Ego. Opposition of this kind 
between Ego and non-Ego is the characteristic feature of 
cognitive consciousness or intelligence. We may there 
fore express the business of the theoretical Wissenschafts- 
lehre as the analysis of the notions, categories, or necessary 
modes of action of intelligence, implied in, and making 
up, the essence of the recognition of a non-Ego by the 
Ego. Popular thinking or philosophical theory employs 
various notions in its effort to explain the relation be 
tween Ego and non-Ego. The Wissenschaftslehre has to 
deduce these notions, to assign to them their value by 
exhibiting them in their due place as stages or aspects 
of thought, and systematically to develop them from 
the fundamental antithesis. The results of the Wis 
senschaftslehre, so far as it is theoretical, are purely 
formal ; and Kant was in a measure correct when he 
described Wissenschaftslchre as mere logic. But it 
was Kant s mistake, and it has been the mistake of 
most critics of the system, to confine their view to one 
limited aspect of it. Eichte was well aware that the de 
duction of the categories, which he was the first to under 
take in a genuinely philosophical fashion,- nay, that the 
exposition of the modes of subjective thinking, such as 
representation, understanding, judgment, reasoning, 
can have, within the limits of theoretical Wissenschafts 
lehre, nothing but formal worth. It was for him a simple 
and incontrovertible truth, that knowledge, as knowledge, 

166 Fichte. 

is of necessity opposed to, and distinct from reality. Such 
opposition is the very essence of knowledge ; and if it 
can be shown as Fichte thought it could be shown 
that this opposition necessarily assumes in the Ego the 
form of representation ( Vorstellung), then it is absolutely 
certain that for the cognitive Ego there are only repre 
sentations. Reality is given only in immediate percep 
tion, or in the element of feeling; and feeling is practical, 
not theoretical. The logical categories, which alone give 
significance for intelligence to the non-Ego, do not con 
tain in themselves the element of fact ; and were there 
no practical Wissenschaf tslehre, philosophy would remain 
where it had been left by Kant, for Kant had seen that 
the affection of sense was indispensable if real concrete 
matter were to be supplied for the action of intelligence, 
but he had attempted no deduction of affection. It re 
mained, in his system, a foreign ingredient ; and his in 
competent followers had, without hesitation, assigned 
the thing-in-itself as ground of explanation. From the 
very outset of his speculation, Fichte had maintained that 
in his system alone was to be found the solution for the 
difficulty left by Kant, that sensuous affection was there 
shown to be a necessary element for intellectual function, 
and that sensuous affection was there deduced from the 
Ego, though not from the Ego as cognitive. 

" The intellectual intuition from which we have 
started is not possible without sensuous intuition, and 
this not without feeling. It is a total misunderstand 
ing of my meaning, and a simple reversal of the very 
meaning and purport of my system, to ascribe to me the 
opposed view. But sense, intuition, and feeling are just 
as impossible without intellectual intuition. I cannot 

Development of the System. 167 

be for my self without being something (etwa8 = & definite 
somewhat), and I am this only in the world of sense ; 
I can just as little be for my self without being Ego, 
and this I am only in the intelligible world, which dis 
closes itself to me through intellectual intuition. The 
point of union between the two lies in this, that what I 
am in the first, I am for myself Only through absolute 
self-activity regulated by thought. Our existence in the 
intelligible world is the moral law ; our existence in the 
world of sense is actual fact : the combining link is free 
dom, as absolute ability to determine the latter through 
the former." 1 For this reason Fichte found himself on 
so many points in harmony with Jacobi, whose general 
tendency in speculation was otherwise opposed. For 
this reason he frequently employs expressions that are 
easily misunderstood, but which sound as though his 
philosophy were one of so-called Common-sense. The 
point is of the last importance, and if not kept in view, 
a totally false impression of the system will be obtained. 

In the theoretical Wissenschaftslehre, therefore, we 
may expect, first, a pure logic of the notions through 
which the non-Ego is for the Ego ; and, second, a genetic 
or pragmatic history of the forms of thinking in which 
the non-Ego is apprehended. The course of the deduc 
tion of the notions is the following : 

The proposition The Ego posits itself as determined 
by the non-Ego yields, on analysis, 2 the opposed expres 
sions, The Ego is passive as determined by the non-Ego- 

1 "Sittenlehre," Werke, vol.iv.p. 91. Of. Werke, vol. i. pp. 
253, 266, 301, 464, 474, 492. 

2 See note p. 164 above for the significance of analysis as here 

168 Fichte. 

and, The Ego, positing itself, is active, Not only is each 
of these expressions a contradiction in itself, but they 
are mutually contradictory, and, if the unity of conscious 
ness is to be preserved, must be united through some 
synthetic and more concrete notion. Such notion is 
readily seen to be but a richer form of the category of lim 
itation or determination, from which the opposites took 
their rise. The Ego is partly determined, partly deter 
mines itself. So much reality as the Ego posits in itself, 
so much does it negate in the non-Ego ; so much reality 
as it posits in the non-Ego, so much does it negate in 
itself. This notion, in which Ego and non-Ego are 
thought as mutually determining, is called by Fichte the 
category of Reciprocal Determination (Wcchsel-bestim- 

But the expressions which have been united in this 
second synthesis are themselves contradictory. Each, 
therefore, must be analytically treated and synthetically 
solved, while a final synthesis will result from the combin 
ation of the notions so reached, a final synthesis which 
shall take up, in a developed form, the category of recip 
rocal determination. The first expression, The non-Ego 
determines the Ego, contains, as antithetical elements, 
The non-Ego has reality, for only so can it determine the 
Ego ; and, secondly, The non-Ego has no reality, for it is 
only negation of the Ego, which alone has reality. Xow, 
the positing of the Ego, through which it lias reality, is 
pure activity. The non-Ego, as negation of the Ego, 
can, therefore, have reality, not in itself, but only in so 
far as the Ego is passive or negatively active. The 
notion which thus effects the desired synthesis is that of 
causality, for the non-Ego may thus be thought as hav- 

Development of the System. 169 

ing reality in so far as the Ego is affected (or passive). 
Reciprocal determination in this new notion acquires 
greater definiteness, for the order of determination is 
fixed. The one factor has positive, the other negative, 

The second expression, The Ego determines itself, 
likewise contains antithetical elements viz., The Ego is 
determining, and therefore active, The Ego determines 
itself, and is therefore passive. Xow the Ego, as posit 
ing, is the sum of all reality, and therefore of activity. 
But, as positin(i) it posits a definite portion of this total 
sphere of reality, and every definition is negative as re 
spects the whole. The Ego, therefore, is passive through 
its own activity. As sum of reality and activity, the 
Ego is substance ; a definite portion of the sphere of 
reality or activity is accident. The new notion, the 
synthesis of substance, thus gives a fresh definiteness to 
the category of reciprocal determination. The passivity 
of the Ego is determined through its activity. 

The two syntheses that of causality, in which the 
Ego is passive through activity of the non-Ego, and that 
of substance, in which the Ego is passive through its 
own activity are the two most important propositions in 
the theory of knowledge ; for they are the abstract ex 
pressions for the counter- views of dogmatic realism and 
subjective idealism. If the relation of Ego and non- 
Ego is thought simply through the notion of causality, 
all representation (Vorstellung) \& regarded as the effect 
of an objective system of things. If the relation is 
thought through the notion of substance, all representa 
tions are viewed as states of the Ego. 1 Neither view 
1 As above noted, p. 127, Spinoza (or Locke) may be taken as rep- 

170 FiMe. 

is coherent : for the theory of representation as effect of 
the non-Ego does not explain how such representation 
should be thought by the Ego ; and the theory of repre 
sentation as state of the Ego does not explain why the 
Ego should oppose to itself a non-Ego. They are, more 
over, mutually destructive. A new synthesis must be 
found, wherein shall be contained the antithetical ele 
ments, passivity of the Ego as determined by activity 
of the non-Ego, passivity of the Ego as determined by 
its own activity. Realism and idealism must be united 
in ideal-realism. 

The exposition of this new synthesis, extending over 
some seventy pages of the closest reasoning, interrupted 
by frequent digressions, and complicated by divisions, 
subdivisions and cross divisions, is the hardest and most 
involved portion of the Wissenschaf tslehre. Divested, 
so far as possible, of its technical terminology, the result 
may be presented somewhat as follows. The Ego and 
non-Ego have now appeared in thought as mutually 
determining and determined, and the final relation be 
tween them may be expressed in the notion of reciprocal 
action and passion (Wechsel-Thun-und-Leideii). But 
such a relation can only be for intelligence, if there be 
given some activity of consciousness which is at once 
determining and determined, which shall at once posit 
the Ego as limited by the non-Ego, and the non-Ego as 
the limit of the Ego. The Ego itself is pure activity, 
total reality. The new act must therefore mediately 
posit each of the two opposed factors. It must affirm 
the non-Ego as limiting, determining the Ego; and at the 

resenting the first view, Berkeley or Leibnitz as representing the 

Development of the System. 171 

same time must affirm or posit this limitation, as a limita 
tion of the Ego. The limit shall be posited only in so 
far as the Ego is affirmed as passive ; the Ego shall be 
affirmed only in so far as the limit is posited. This 
activity, by which the infinitude of the Ego is limited, 
this activity which continuously mediates between the 
opposites of infinitude and finitude for the Ego is infi 
nite, but, as reflective, as conscious of itself, it is finite 
Eichte describes by the term already familiar to students 
of Kant, Productive Imagination. It is the necessary 
activity of thought by which definiteness, or determin- 
ateness, becomes possible for thought. By it alone the 
Ego becomes subject and has the object over against it. 
Subject and object are, in fact, the opposites of Ego and 
non-Ego as appearing in theoretical cognition. No sub 
ject without an object ; no object without a subject. 
Productive imagination it is which wins for us definite 
things from the "void and formless infinite." All 
reality is for us through imagination a proposition 
which may afford matter for reflection to those who 
assume that a speculative philosophy in any way endeav 
ours to transcend experience. The product of imagina 
tion, the representation (Vorstellung\ is at once objec 
tive, for it can only be thought as related to the non-Ego 
and subjective, for it is only for the reflective subject. 
Hence arises that curious and most obscure property of 
Vorstellungen, that they are invariably thought as repre 
sentations of some reality; hence arises, for us, the oppo 
sition between the subjective and objective orders of 
experience. 1 A thing, logically regarded, is but a com- 

1 See Werke, vol. ii. pp. 400, 401. The whole tract, Sonnen- 
klarer Bericht, is an essay on external perception, which might with 

172 FiMe. 

plex of relations envisaged in imagination i.e., repre 
sented or definitely embodied. 1 

"All difficulties," Fichte concludes, "are thus satis 
factorily solved. The problem was, to unite the oppo- 
sites, Ego and non-Ego. Through the faculty of imagi 
nation, which unites contradictories, these may be com 
pletely reconciled. The non-Ego is itself a product of 
the self-determining Ego, and not anything posited as 
absolute and external to the Ego. An Ego that posits 
itself as self-positing i.e., as a subject is impossible 
without an object produced in the fashion just described 
(the very characteristic of the Ego, its reflection upon 
itself as a definite somewhat, is possible only under the 
condition that it limit itself through an opposite). There 
remains over only the question how and by what means 
the limit, which is here assumed as explaining represen 
tation for the Ego, comes to be at all. This question lies 
beyond the limits of the theoretical Wissenschaftslehre, 
and is not to be answered within them." 2 

Faculty of productive imagination is, therefore, the 
fundamental cognitive activity. 3 It is, however, only 

advantage be compared with our English analyses of the same 

1 Werke, vol. i. p. 443. 

2 Ibid., vol. i. p. 218. 

3 This productive imagination, it may be pointed out, is virtually 
identical with Beck s original synthetical act. The whole question of 
productive imagination in the scheme of the Kantian theory of know 
ledge requires to be more thoroughly worked than has yet been clone. 
Useful contributions to the solution are given by Frohschammer, 
Ueberdie Bedeutung der Einbildungskraft in der Philosophic Kant s 
und Spinoza s, 1879 (which does not appreciate fully the place of 
imagination in Spinoza s scheme) ; and, more recently, by Mainzer, 
Die kritische Epoche in der Lehre von der Einbildungskraft aus 
Hume s und Kant s theoretischer Philosophie, 1881. 

Development of the System. 173 

the ground of Vorstellung ; the more definite qualifica 
tions of representation are due to other activities of 
consciousness. These Eichte proceeds to trace with 
much minuteness, giving what he describes as a "prag 
matic history of consciousness." The Grmulriss des 
Eigenthu mlicheii der Wissenschaftslehre/ in particular, 
contains an extraordinarily minute analysis and descrip 
tion of sensation and intuition, with a. much more 
detailed deduction of the forms of intuition than is put 
forward in the Grundlage. The characteristic feature 
of the treatment is the continuous reference of the pro 
cesses described on the one hand to the non-Ego, as to 
that with which they are concerned ; on the other hand, 
to the Ego, as to that by which they are posited or exist. 
The successive acts are, in truth, stages in the develop 
ment of productive imagination, and arise through the 
continuous reflection of the Ego upon each of the stages. 
The treatment is thus what in Fichte s system would 
correspond to psychology. 

The lowest stage, the first moment of the process by 
which the Ego becomes definitely conscious of the oppo 
sition involved in its nature, is that in which the Ego 
finds itself limited or rendered passive. This state or 
condition for the Ego is not reflectively aware of the 
activity which is, nevertheless, involved in it is sen 
sation (Empfindung). All sensation is accompanied by 
the feeling of the passivity of the Ego ? .<?., by the feel 
ing of constraint or necessity. This feeling of compul 
sion, enriched by other products of the reflective energy 
of the Ego, is an essential element in the belief in exter 
nal reality. 

Sensation, however, though a passive state, is only for 

174 Fichte. 

the Ego ; the Ego reflects upon its own state, and there 
is thus introduced the distinction between self and not- 
self, which is the characteristic feature of all reflection. 
The sensation taken reflectively, and thereby referred to 
the non-Ego, is intuition (Anscliauung). As the Ego is 
not reflectively aware of the activity by which it so 
objectifies sensation, it is, in the process of intuition, 
absorbed or sunk in the contemplation of the object. 1 
The intuition, however, is, equally with sensation, for 
the Ego; and the Ego, becoming reflectively aware of 
intuition as an activity, a product of its own, so converts 
intuition into a subjective fact, a mental representation 
or image (Bild). The twofold action of the Ego in reflec 
tion upon intuition that by which it contemplates intui 
tion as the object, that by which subjectively it is aware 
that the intuition is a mental fact explains the thought- 
relation between the external object as the original, and 
the intuition as its copy or representative, and also ex 
plains the distinction we draw in consciousness between 
inner and outer . intuition. Outer intuition is the pro 
cess thought as determined with respect to the content 
or attributes of its product ; inner intuition, the process 
thought as subjectively mine, and therefore free or un 
constrained as to mode of action by the object. There 
thus arises for consciousness the important difference 
between necessity and contingency in the sphere of intu 
ition, a difference which rests upon and implies the dis 
tinction of intuitions from one another, their reciprocal 
determination, and the determined sequence of acts of 
intuition. The condition under which distinction of 

1 Cf. Werke, vol. ii. pp. 373 et seq., for a more elaborate exposi 
tion of this feature of Intuition. 

Development of the System. 175 

intuitions as objects from one another is possible is 
space; the condition \Tder which determined acts of 
intuition are possible is time. 1 

Intuition, as such, is not yet a fixed product for the 
Ego. The productive imagination, of which intuition is 
a mode, fixes nothing. The definite fixing or relating of 
intuitions is the work of understanding (Verstand), and 
all reality for cognition is in and through the under 
standing. The modes of fixing are the categories already 
deduced as involved in the very essence of consciousness, 
and Fichte is thus enabled to show what Kant had failed 
to do, that category, schema, and intuition are organic 
ally united ; that the categories are not empty forms into 
which matter is thrown from without, but arise with the 
objects themselves. 

The understanding, of which the products are thoughts 
or notions, is itself subject to reflection, and to a reflec 
tion which is, as opposed to understanding, abstractive 
or free. The reflective action of the Ego upon the whole 
world of objects of understanding is judgment (Urtheils- 
Jcraft). The highest stage of consciousness is reflection 
upon judgment, for in this, abstraction is made of all 
save the Ego itself. The Ego in its pure abstraction and 
consciousness of self is reason (Vernwnff). The more 
complete this power of abstraction, this withdrawal from 
objectivity, the more closely does the empirical approach 
pure consciousness. 

The theoretical Wissenschaftslehre has developed com 
pletely the form of cognition, and has shown that this 

1 The deduction of Space and Time, a remarkable piece of analysis, 
is carried out in great detail intlie " Grundriss des Eigenthumlicheii," 
< Werke, vol. i. pp. 391-411. 

176 F ichte. 

form is an organic or systematic whole. But it has pro 
ceeded from a proposition containing an element not yet 
deduced or explained. The Ego, positing itself as de 
termined by a non-Ego, has been shown to effect this 
position by a series of necessary, synthetic acts, through 
which both Ego and non-Ego have appeared as determined 
and in relations to one another. Alongside of this fun 
damental proposition, hoAvever, there stood a second, 
equally necessary for consciousness viz., that the Ego 
posits itself as determining the non-Ego. The form of 
cognition rests entirely on the opposition between non- 
Ego and Ego, but explains in no way the origin of this 
opposition. The investigation must now be directed 
upon the second proposition the foundation of the prac 
tical Wissenschaftslehre in order to discover whether 
in it there may not be given a solution of the presuppo 
sition on which the form of knowledge has rested. The 
practical Wissenschaftslehre is not developed by Fichte 
with the same dialectical vigour as had been manifest 
in the treatment of knowledge, and the more important 
doctrines are to be sought, not in the Grundlage, but 
in the introductions to the systematic works on Law 
and Morals. 1 

The Ego as cognitive recognises reality in the non- 
Ego, and as active or practical, as determining the 
non-Ego, likewise ascribes reality to it. But how is it 
possible that there should be for the Ego, which is pure 
activity, mere self -position, a negation or opposition 1 ? 
How is the primitive act of oppositing, already noted as 
the most obscure and perplexed feature of the system, 

1 Particularly in the " Sittenlehre " ( Werke, vol. iv.), which is 
Fichte s most carefully written work. 

Development of the System. 177 

possible for the Ego 1 It would be possible if the Ego 
were to limit itself, if in addition to the activity by 
which the Ego posits itself, there were given another 
activity e. g., that of limitation, for the mode of 
action of this second activity must necessarily be op 
position. If we call the first activity pure, the second 
may be called objective. The union of pure and ob 
jective activity in the Ego would explain the Anstoss 
or opposition upon which all cognition depends. The 
pure activity, as self-related, is infinite; the objective 
activity is finite and limitative. If the Ego is to unite 
both, it must be an infinite activity which is at the same 
time, though not in the same sense, finite ; it must be an 
infinite striving. Striving implies opposition, for with 
out obstacle, without impediment, there is only bound 
less activity. How shall the infinite activity of the Ego 
be thought as infinite striving] The Ego is, but it is 
only for itself. Eeflection is thus the very law of exist 
ence for a conscious Ego. The Ego is only the Ego, in 
so far as it reflects. But this reflection is the very limi 
tative obstacle of which the practical Wissenschaftslehre 
is in search, and the problem is therefore solved. If 
the Ego be not activity, infinite self-position, there 
can be no striving. If the Ego be not reflective, it can 
not be conscious of itself ; it remains a tiling, and not 
an Ego. Thus the practical activity of the Ego is the 
ground of the Anstoss, which renders intelligence pos 
sible; while reflection is the ground of the self -con 
sciousness of the Ego. For an Ego which is not reflec 
tive, which is not opposed by a non-Ego, self-conscious 
ness is impossible, and to such an Ego the system of 
Wissenschaftslehre has no application. 

P. IV, M 

178 Mchte. 

The complete synthesis of the opposed propositions 
from which the start was made, has now been reached ; 
the practical and theoretical activities of the Ego are 
shown to be necessarily related to one another, and 
to the absolute Ego. Without simple self-position of 
the Ego i.e., without the absolute Ego as the idea 
of all reality there can be no infinite striving, and 
without infinite striving, no intelligence. At the root 
of the infinite striving of the Ego lies the idea of the 
infinitude of the absolute Ego an idea which, from the 
necessary reflection of the Ego, is never completely rea 
lised, but towards which there is an endless tendency in 
the Ego. The Ego, as infinite but reflective activity 
under the idea of the absolute tendency towards self- 
realisation, is the practical Ego, and the series of stages 
throughout which it passes is the ideal series. The Ego, 
as limited by the non-Ego, but at the same time as con 
tinuously transcending this opposition, is theoretical, and 
the series of stages through which it passes is the real 
series. "And so the whole nature of finite, rational 
beings is comprehended and explained. Original idea of 
our absolute being ; striving towards reflection upon self 
according to this idea ; limitation, not of this striving, 
but of our real being, which is first given through the 
limitation through the opposing principle, a non-Ego 
or, generally, through our finitude ; self-consciousness, 
and in particular consciousness of our practical striving ; 
determination of our representations thereby (with free 
dom and without freedom) ; through this, determination 
of our actions the direction of our real, sensuous exist 
ence ; continual extension of the limits to our activity. 1 
1 <Werke, vol. i. p. 278. 

Development of the System. 179 

Although all expositions of Fichte s philosophy bring 
into prominence the fact that for him reason as practi 
cal is the ground of reason as theoretical, the signifi 
cance of the fact, so far as his general theory of know 
ledge is concerned, does not seem to have received 
sufficient attention. It has not seen how the practical 
side of Wissenschaftslehre bears upon and supplements 
the proposition from which Fichte never departs that 
knowledge is formal only, and that reality is not con 
tained in the form of thought or cognition. Kant had 
made the same proposition a feature of his system, but 
had never been able to offer any explanation of it, 
and manifestly remained under the impression that 
in Fichte s theoretical Wissenschaftslehre, the attempt 
was made to extract reality out of mere form of 
thought. 1 This, however, is by no means the truth. 
Self -consciousness is only realised in the form of know 
ledge, but the form of realisation is not the reality itself. 
Opposition between self and not-self is the necessary 
form of self-consciousness, but the necessity of the form 
does not explain the reality attaching to the two factors. 
It is on this account that Fichte so continuously lays 
stress on the principle that the primitive datum of con 
sciousness is not a fact to be cognised under the neces 
sary form of knowledge, but the product of an act; that 
the essence of the conscious being is not representa 
tion or knowledge, but activity or freedom, which is 
cognised under the forms of representation or know 
ledge. The necessary implication of activity and cog 
nition is, therefore, the answer supplied by him to 
the problem left unsolved by Kant the problem of 
1 See above, p. 50. 

180 Fickle. 

the relation between intellectual function and affection 
of sense. 

In tracing the series of stages through which the prac 
tical Ego seeks realisation for itself, Eichte is describing 
the successive forms of real fact which underlie, and 
are necessarily involved in, the existence of a self-con 
scious subject. The complete exposition affords the 
groundwork for two comprehensive philosophical doc 
trines^ that of Rights or Law, and that of Duties or 
Morals while it culminates in a statement as to the 
bearing of Wissenschaftslehre on the fundamental prob 
lem of theology. 1 No account can here be given of 
the systematic treatment of the doctrines of Law and 
Ethics. It must suffice to indicate how these doctrines 
are related to the general principles of Eichte s practi 
cal philosophy, and in what respects their fundamental 
notions were altered or amended in the later stage of 
his speculation. 

The Ego, as has been seen, is in essence activity ; but 
at the same time, if an Ego at all, it must posit, affirm, 
or be aware of its own activity. The twofold aspect of 
the Ego, as at once activity and reflection upon activity, 
must ever be kept in mind when the effort is made to 
trace further the conditions of self-consciousness. As in 
the case of the several stages of cognition, so here, it will 

1 The general exposition is given in the " Grimcllage," Werke, 
vol. i. pp. 285-328; in the "Naturrecht," Werke, vol. iii. pp. 
17-91 ; in the " Sittenlehre," Werke, vol. iv. pp. 18-156. No work on 
Fichte s system with which I am acquainted makes any attempt to 
connect what is put forward in these three quarters, and the omission 
is doubtless one great cause of the common misconceptions of his 
theory. The statement here given is too compressed to do justice 
to the very elaborate analysis contained in the various writings re 
ferred to. 

Development of the System. 181 

be found that the forms of practical activity result from 
the continuous reflection of the Ego upon the modes and 
products of its own action. The most general statement 
which can be made regarding the whole process, sums 
up what is developed in the successive steps by which 
the practical Ego realises itself. 

Under what conditions can the Ego be conscious of 
itself 1 Only in so far as it is practical, in so far as it is 
a striving force, only in so far as it is will. "The prac 
tical Ego is the Ego of original self-consciousness; a 
rational being immediately perceives itself only in will 
ing; and were it not practical, would perceive neither 
itself nor the world would not be an intelligence at 
all. Will is in a special sense the essence of reason." 1 
This striving of the Ego is only possible for conscious 
ness in so far as it is limited or opposed, and the state 
of consciousness in which this hindrance to striving is 
posited has already been described as feeling. Striving 
which is opposed, but not absolutely, is impulse (Trieb). 
The very innermost nature of the Ego is therefore im 
pulse. The Ego is a system of impulses. Eeeling in 
which the impulse or force of the Ego is checked, is 
necessarily a feeling of incapacity or of compulsion, and 
the combination of the immediate consciousness of our 
own striving with the feeling of compulsion or restraint 
is for us the first and most simple criterion of reality. 
The external thing is for us as real as the activity of 
the Ego with which it is bound up. " Only through the 
relation of feeling to the Ego is reality possible for the 
Ego, whether reality of itself or of the non-Ego. Now, 
that which is possible only through the relation of feel- 
1 Werke/ vol. iii. pp. 20, 21. 

182 Ficlite. 

ing to the Ego, while the Ego neither is nor can be con 
scious of its intuition of the same, and which therefore 
seems to be felt, is matter of belief. There is, then, 
simply belief in reality in general, whether of Ego or of 
non-Ego." 1 

The Ego, therefore, if it is to be aware of itself, if it 
is to be self-conscious, must posit itself as acting i.e., 
as willing, and as willing freely. This important propo 
sition, which lies at the root of law and morals, may 
be examined from two sides. We may consider what 
is necessarily implied or involved in it, and we may con 
sider the conditions under which consciousness of free 
activity is possible. So far as the first aspect is con 
cerned, the following are Fichte s results. An intelli 
gence can ascribe to itself free activity only if it posit or 
assume a world external to itself. But to posit or as 
sume a world external to itself seems to imply an activity 
prior to the activity exercised upon the object, seems 
to imply that the activity of the Ego which is free, shall 
be at the same time determined by a prior fact. Kecon- 
ciliation of this contradiction is possible only if the Ego 
be determined to free self-determination, and if the 
motive or occasioning cause of this free self-determina 
tion be itself a rational, active Ego. The Ego, then, 
cannot become aware of itself as a free, active being, 
without at the same time positing the existence of an 
other free and active being. Individuality or personality 
is conceivable only if there be given a multiplicity of 
individuals or persons, and individuality is a condition 
of consciousness of self. Nay, further, the recognition 

1 Werke, vol. i. p. 301. Of. vol. i. pp. 297, 314 ; vol. ii. p. 263; 
vol. iii. p. 3. 

Development of the System. 183 

of individuality, which is possible only in a community 
of free, active intelligences, demands as its conditions 
the positing of an external means of realising free acti 
vity i.e., of a material organism or body. The sense 
world thus receives a deeper interpretation as the com 
mon ground or means of communication between free 
intelligences. A community of free beings, finally, is 
only conceivable if each regard himself as standing to 
the others in a certain relation, which may be called 
that of right or law. The essence of this relation is 
the limitation by each of his sphere of free activity, 
in accordance with the notion of a like sphere of free 
activity as belonging to others. Eights, as Fichte re 
peatedly insists, are the conditions of individuality. 1 

From this point the philosophical treatment of juris 
prudence takes its start. Rights have been deduced from 
the very nature of self-consciousness, and not from any 
ethical principle, and the whole science is treated by 
Fichte in a strictly systematic fashion, as entirely inde 
pendent of ethics. In this procedure the ISTaturrecht 
stands opposed not only to the later developments of his 
thought, but to the earlier political doctrines of the 
Contributions; and while the work contains much acute 
analysis of legal notions, it is, as a whole, fanciful and 
unsatisfactory. Perhaps the most interesting doctrines 
are the definite rejection of primitive rights as existing 
beyond the state, the view of the state as essentially an 
external mechanism for preserving the condition of 
right in a freely formed community, the notion of an 
ephoraf, or body invested with right of veto on the 

1 See Briefwechsel, p. 166, for a compressed statement regarding 
the relation of individuality to the notion of the pure Ego. 

184 Fichte. 

legislative and executive power, the theory of punish 
ment as purely protective, and the strongly socialist 
principles for state regulation of property, labour, trade, 
and money. The Geschlossene Handelsstaat, already 
referred to, is but the natural appendix to the theory of 
rights in general. 

So far, the consideration of the conditions under which, 
the Ego is conscious of itself has been external. The 
Ego, conscious of self-existence in willing, is necessarily 
an individual, standing in relation to other individuals. 
The consciousness of self as willing must be further 
analysed. But the consciousness of self as willing is 
identical with the consciousness of self -activity, with the 
tendency to act in independence of everything external 
to self, with self-determination. This is the reality 
which underlies the intellectual intuition previously 
noted. Were not the Ego absolute tendency to free 
activity, there would be no Ego and no self-conscious 
ness. The absolute thought of freedom, self-activity as 
essence of the Ego, appears in consciousness in the cor 
relative form of all knowledge, as subjective, in which 
case it is mere freedom ; as objective, in which case it 
is necessary determination or law. The union of these 
in the Ego is the consciousness of freedom as law, the 
categorical imperative or moral law. 

Activity, objectively regarded, is impulse or tendency 
(Trieb). The Ego, as has been already seen, is a system 
of impulses ; its very nature is tendency or impulse. 
But all tendency of the Ego must at the same time be 
for the Ego that is, must be reflectively matter of con 
sciousness to the Ego. A tendency of which we are 
reflectively conscious is a need or want, and when fur- 

Development of the System. 185 

ther determined in reference to a definite object, a desire. 
Nature i.e., our nature as a system of tendencies, has, 
therefore, one supreme end, satisfaction of desire, plea 
sure or enjoyment. The Ego, however, is not merely 
nature, but consciousness of self, and in so far is inde 
pendent of objects. It is at once tendency towards 
objects and tendency towards self -activity, realisation 
of its own independence. The very essence of the real 
Ego is the constant coexistence in apparent isolation of 
the two impulses natural tendency and tendency to 
wards freedom. Such constant coexistence is not to be 
thought as a state or condition, but as a process. The 
final end which is posited by the free self -consciousness 
viz., absolute self-dependence, independence of nature 
is not one to be realised as a finite state, but to be con 
tinually approached in an infinite series. " The Ego can 
never be independent, so long as it remains an Ego ; the 
final end of a rational being lies necessarily in infinity, 
and is therefore one never to be attained, but continually 
to be approached." 1 The vocation of a finite rational 
being is not to be regarded as one definite thing, but as 
a constant, infinite series of vocations, to each of which 
it is imperatively called. " Continuously fulfil thy voca 
tion," is therefore the practical expression of the moral 
law. The immediate feeling of the harmony in any case 
between the natural tendency and the tendency to free 
dom is conscience. 

The moral law, as the expression of the constant ten 
dency of the Ego towards realisation of the idea of self- 
consciousness, self-activity, self-dependence, is the ulti 
mate certainty, the ground of all knowledge, and of all 
1 < Werke, vol. iv. p. 149. 

186 FicJife. 

practical belief. " The supersensible, of which the reflex 
in us is our world of sense, this it is which constrains 
us to ascribe reality even to that reflex, this is the true 
thing-in-itself, which lies at the foundation of all the 
phenomenal ; and our belief is concerned, not with the 
phenomenal, but with its supersensible foundation. My 
vocation as moral, and whatever is involved in the con 
sciousness thereof, is the one immediate certainty that is 
given to me as conscious of self, the one thing which 
makes me for myself a reality. . . . Our world is the 
sensualised material of our duty. . . . "What compels 
us to yield belief in the reality of the world is a moral 
force the only force that is possible for a free being." 1 

Thus, as the series of acts by which the theoretical 
Ego realised itself closed with the formal consciousness 
of the independent, thinking, reflecting Ego, so here the 
series of real acts by which the practical Ego realises 
itself closes with the consciousness of the infinite law of 
freedom, of duty. The Ego, as individual, as finite 
and real being, is at the same time the Ego with the idea 
of its own infinite vocation and the infinite tendency to 
realise the same. The problem of the Wissenschaftslehre 
has been completely solved ; the formal determinations 
with which it started have received their real interpre 

It is evident that in the completed system, as here 
conceived, no place is left for those notions which have 
played so great a part in human thought the notions of 
God as a personal, conscious agent, creative and regula 
tive of things. Such interpretation as theology could 
receive in Wissenschaftslehre was given by Eichte in tho 
1 Werke, vol. v. pp. 210, 211. 

Development of the System. 187 

essay which led to his removal from the University of 
Jena, 1 

The absolute end of reason has been seen to be the 
infinite realisation of the moral law. The world of the 
senses, contemplated from this point of view, is not a 
reality in itself, but the necessary means for accomplish 
ing the task of reason. It has its foundation in that 
moral law in which finite intelligences have also their 
bond of union. Belief in the reality of the moral order 
of the universe, conviction that the morally good will 
is a free and effective cause in the intelligible system of 
things, this, and this only, is belief in God. For a 
rational being, God is the moral order of the universe,- 
not an order which has its ground external to itself 
not an ordo ordinatus, but the order which is the 
ground of all reality, ordo ordinans. To think of this 
order as object of intelligence is necessarily to bring it 
under the forms of cognition, to regard it as being, as 
substance, as person. But such predicates have no 
validity when applied to the moral order ; and even to 
describe this order as supreme consciousness, intelli 
gence, is but of negative service, useful as obviating 
the error of viewing the moral system as a thing, hurtful 
as tending to inclose in limited notions that which is 
the ground of all intelligence. The moral order is truly 
a spiritual order, and in it only our life has reality. All 
life is its life, and the manifestation of this life is the 
infinite development of humanity. The life does not 
exist as a completed fact, hence the point of view is in 
no way to be identified with Pantheism or with Spin- 
ozism, but eternally is to be. The individual, finite 
1 See above, pp. 56-64. 

188 Fichte. 

Ego, in acceptance of his position as a member in this 
supersensible order, realises his infinite vocation, tends 
more and more to lose his apparent individuality, and 
approaches ever more nearly to the idea of infinitude 
which is the characteristic mark of self-consciousness. 
In this intelligible moral order, the problem of Wissen- 
schaftslehre finds its final solution ; the abstract form of 
self-consciousness here receives its concrete development 
and completion. 1 

1 Of. the passage already quoted (p. 15), in which the twofold aspect 
of the Ego as abstract starting-point and concrete end is indicated. 




THE result of the Wissenschaftslehre, as stated in the 
last paragraph, proved far from final, and in fact only 
served to open out a series of problems, the treatment of 
which forms the second stage in the development of 
Fichte s philosophy. As has been already pointed out, 
it was, historically, the effect produced by his specula 
tions on theology, that compelled Fichte to a renewed 
consideration of the principles on which the Wissen 
schaftslehre rested, and the system of knowledge there 
expounded. The course of his inquiry had led him from 
the abstract analysis of the acts necessarily involved in 
the nature of self-consciousness, to the more concrete 
conception of the essence of reason as recognised depend 
ence on the ultimate moral law. The successive stages 
had been cognition, in its various forms, practical reason 
or will, and the final synthesis in which these were 

It was now evident that the final synthesis the con 
crete reality of reason required a treatment much more 
elaborate than it had yet received, that in the concep 
tion of the finite Ego as accepting the infinite vocation 

190 FichU. 

of the moral law, more was implied than the pure self- 
activity, pure freedom, through which consciousness of 
this vocation was possible ; and that the relation between 
knowledge as form, will as ground of reality, and the 
supreme notion of the divine order, was as yet imperfect. 
"In a word, there was yet wanting a transcendental 
system of the intelligible world." 1 From this point 
onwards the inquiry centres in that divine idea of the 
world which appears as the guiding principle in the 
popular works, and which at first sight appears to have 
no immediate connection with the Wissenschaftslehre 
in its earlier form. 2 In certain minor doctrines, the 
new expositions differ from the Wissenschaftslehre as al 
ready described, and the position assigned to moral inde 
pendence is not exactly the same as that given to it in 
the Sitteiilehre, but on the whole we find nothing in 
them to contradict or supersede the Wissenschaftslehre. 
They contain a wider, more concrete view, to which 
Wissenschaftslehre may be regarded as an introduction, 
but essentially this view is but the more complete 
evolution of what in an abstract fashion had already 
been stated there. The difficulties in the way of sur 
veying the new treatment, and perceiving its connection 
with the older doctrine, arise partly from the obscurity 
of the language in which expression is given to the new 
thoughts, partly from the varied modes in which the 
same matter is presented. Fichte, who always laid stress 
on the fact of unity in his philosophy, approaches the 
statement from the most varied points, now selecting the 

i < Brief wechsel, p. 333. 

a See particularly the lectures on the " Nature of the Scholar," 
Werke, vol. vi., and there pp. S60-371. 

Later form of the Wissemchaftslehre. 191 

ultimate ground of things, now sketching the series of 
processes by which our thinking reaches this ground, 
and again taking knowledge as a completed system, and 
considering what is implied by it. 1 Many of these ex 
positions are before us only in the form of notes for lec 
tures, and it is a task of immense difficulty to follow the 
line of thought through the disjointed remarks and wil 
derness of abstruse illustration by which Fichte strove 
to make his meaning clear. 2 

The work in which we are able to discern, with the 
utmost precision, the transition from the earlier to the 
later doctrine, is the Bestimmung des Menschen, pub 
lished in 1800. 3 In the three books into which the 
work is divided, Fichte describes three fundamental 
views in philosophy : first, that of naturalism or dog 
matism ; second, that of theoretical idealism ; third, that 
of practical faith or ethical idealism. ^Naturalism, the 
systematic development of one notion, that of the recip 
rocal determination of the several parts of experience, 
finds itself in absolute conflict with the idea of our own 
freedom, which is the very essence of consciousness. 
If it were possible for us to regard consciousness as 
mere object of knowledge as a thing then to it would 
apply the results of this comprehensive notion. This 
being impossible, natural necessity and freedom stand 

1 As an instance of the first method, the Anweisiing zuni seligen 
Leben may be selected. For the second, the Thatsachen des Be \vusst- 
seyns, and for the third, the Darstellung der Wissenschaftslehre 
aus d. Jahre 1801, are the best illustrations. 

2 These lecture-notes make up the bulk of the Nachgelassene 

3 A translation into English has been published by Dr W. Smith. 
See Fichte s Popular Works, with a Memoir (3d ed. 1873), pp. 237- 
379. To this references are made. 

192 Fichte. 

opposed to one another, and no means of abolishing 
their opposition appears to be given. 1 In the second 
book, entitled " Knowledge," the analysis of percep 
tion from its subjective side is carried out with a 
subtlety and exhaustiveness that leave nothing to be 
desired. Gradually the thinker is led on from the first 
naive position of intelligence to the conclusion that the 
whole varied contents of external experience are nothing 
and can be nothing but Vorstellungen, determined modes 
of intelligence. 2 He is brought to the point at which 
Wissenschaftslehre as theoretical ends ; and the interpre 
tation of his position, as here given, is but an expansion 
of the principle, already noted as fundamental in Fichte, 
that knowledge is pure form. The process of subjective 
analysis i.e., of analysis for cognition, when carried 
out rigorously, leaves as result a system of Vorstellungen. 
" There is nothing enduring, either out of me or in me, 
but only a ceaseless change. I know of no being, not 
even of my own. There is no being. I myself know 
not and am not. Pictures there are ; 3 they are all that 
exist, and they know of themselves after the fashion of 
pictures, -pictures, which float past without there being 
anything past which they float ; which, by means of like 
pictures, are connected with each other ; pictures with 
out anything which is pictured in them, without signifi 
cance and without aim. I myself am one of these pic- 

1 Hence the title of the first book, " Doubt." 

2 The Sonnenklarer Bericht is an excellent commentary on this 
second book of the Bestimmung. Together they make a most admir 
able introduction to philosophical analysis. 

3 The term picture must be taken in a metaphorical sense, in order 
to serve as translation of Bild. The English use of the term idea, as 
equivalent to mental picture, would be more satisfactory. 

Later form of the Wissenschaftslchrc. 193 

tures ; nay, I am not even this, but merely a confused 
picture of the pictures. All reality is transformed into 
a strange dream, without a life which is dreamed of, 
and without a mind which dreams it, into a dream 
which is woven together in a dream of itself. Intuition 
is the dream ; thought the source of all the being and 
all the reality which I imagine, of my own being, my 
own powers, and my own purposes is the dream of 
that dream." 1 From the point of view of knowledge, 
there is nothing but knowledge ; and knowledge is not 
reality, just because it is knowledge. In the form of 
cognition we can never attain to more than formal truth. 
With this sceptical conclusion the second book closes. 
In the third, the transition is effected to the higher, 
the practical stage of Fichte s philosophy, by a method 
partly identical with that already described, but in part 
containing a new and startling feature. Not knowledge 
only, but action, is the end of existence. The restless 
striving after a reality which is not given in thought, 
has significance only in reference to the active, energetic 
power by which self endeavours to mould the world to 
its own purposes. But if we endeavour to subject this 
feeling of free self-activity, of independent purpose, to 
the analysis of reason, the sceptical doubts regarding 
knowledge return with their former force. It is con 
ceivable that the distinction of the self willing and the 
conditions under which the volition is to be realised 
the twofold aspect of all will, as thought and as act 
may be nothing but the form imposed by cognitive con 
sciousness on the operation of some unknown external 
power. Through this sceptical reflection, "all earnest- 
1 P. 309. 

P, IV. N 

194 Fichte. 

ness and interest is withdrawn from my life, and life, as 
well as thought, is transformed into a mere play, which 
proceeds from nothing and tends to nothing." No exit 
is left, save that of resolute acceptance of the inner com 
mand to act, and act freely. We must have faith in this 
impulse to independence, which is the very innermost 
secret of our nature. Thought is not supreme, but is 
founded on our striving energies. Unhesitating accept 
ance of our vocation and of the conditions implied in 
it through this only has life reality for us. "There 
is something that must be done for its own sake that 
which conscience demands of me in this particular situa 
tion of life it is mine to do, and for this purpose only 
am I here ; to know it I have understanding ; to per 
form it I have power. Through this edict of conscience 
only are truth and reality introduced into my conceptions." 
Obedience to the law of conscience is the ground of 
practical belief; and from it follow, as consequences, 
practical belief in the existence of others, and in the ex 
istence of a real external world. To merely speculative 
cognition, the existence of others and of a world, must 
be interpreted as only a specific mode of representation ; 
but speculative cognition is abstract and one-sided. Only 
in reference to action has the existence of another con 
scious being or of an external thing, significance for us. 
" We are compelled to believe that we act, and that we 
ought to act, in a certain manner ; we are compelled to 
assume a certain sphere for this action ; this sphere is 
the real, actually present world, such as we find it. ... 
From necessity of action proceeds the consciousness of 
the actual world; and not the reverse way, from the 
consciousness of the actual world the necessity of action," 

Later form of the WissenscJiaftslehrc. 195 

Action under conscience supposes an end, not pre 
scribed by nature, but to be realised by us in nature. 
As contrasted with this end, even in its formal aspect, 
the world of fact presents itself as but a stage in progress 
towards the more perfect harmony between the condi 
tions of life and the moral rule which is its supreme law. 
Improvement of nature, development of the powers of 
humanity, whether in science or culture or state organi 
sation, establishment of the general rule of rational free 
dom, these are contained under the comprehensive 
demand of conscience. 1 

Realisation of itself in this world cannot, however, be 
looked upon as the one aim of the rational will. For in 
such realisation in deed or fact, that which is to inner 

1 It is to this point that the lectures on the " Characteristics of the 
Present Age " attach themselves. In them, the general progress of 
humanity towards realisation, with consciousness of its earthly aim 
" that in this life mankind may order all their relations with free 
dom according to reason " is traced in its broad outlines as the 
foundation for a philosophy of history. In such progress Fichte dis 
tinguishes five epochs, or world ages : first, that in which reason 
acts as blind instinct the state of innocence ; second, that in which 
the growing consciousness of reason presents itself as external au 
thority the age of positive systems, of progressive sin ; third, that 
in which reason reflectively frees itself from external authority, and 
so from all general control the age of individualism, of completed 
sinfulness ; fourth, that in which the rational end is apprehended as 
reasoned, philosophic truth the age of reconstruction, of progressive 
justification ; fifth, that in which the rational end, embodied in gen 
eral consciousness, is artistically developed in which humanity, with 
clear consciousness of its own aim, endeavours practically to realise 
the reign of freedom, the age of completed justification. Much that 
is fantastic and unreal is given in these lectures, especially as re 
gards the first stage the origin of history ; but the general view of 
the progress of practical thought is luminous and instructive, and 
we note that here the state begins to have assigned to it a higher 
function in the development of human life than had been accorded to 
it in the earlier work (the Rechtslehre 1 ). 

196 Fichte. 

consciousness the pre-eminent excellence of moral action 
the intention or disposition becomes of no account. 
" Iii the world of sense it is never of any moment liow, 
and with wliat motives and intentions, an action is per 
formed, but only what the action is" The mechanism 
of the world of fact may be the form in which the 
divine idea partially realises itself, but it cannot be 
placed as coextensive with the divine idea. Our will 
must be thought as determined in a supersensible order, 
and as carrying out in the world of sense, under exter 
nal conditions, what is there unconditionally demanded. 
" The earthly purpose is not pursued by me for its own 
sake alone, or as a final aim, but only because my true 
final aim obedience to the law of conscience does not 
present itself to me in this world in any other shape 
than as the advancement of this end." "This, then, is 
my whole vocation, my true nature. I am a member of 
two orders the one purely spiritual, in which I rule by 
my will alone ; the other sensuous, in which I operate 
by my deed. . . . The will is the living principle 
of reason is itself reason, when apprehended purely 
and simply. . . . Only the infinite reason lives 
immediately and wholly in this purely spiritual order. 
The finite reason which does not of itself constitute 
the world of reason, but is only one of its many mem 
bers lives necessarily at the same time in a sensuous 
order that is to say, in one which presents to it another 
object beyond a purely spiritual activity a material ob 
ject to be promoted by instruments and powers which 
indeed stand under the immediate dominion of the will, 
but whose activity is also conditioned by their own 
natural laws. Yet as surely as reason is reason, must 

Later form of the Wisscnschaftslelire. 197 

the will operate absolutely by itself, and independently 
of the natural laws by which the material action is de 
termined ; and hence the life of every finite being points 
towards a higher, into which the will by itself alone 
may open the way, and of which it may acquire posses 
sion a possession which indeed we must sensuously 
conceive of as a state, and not as a mere will." Thus 
the true essence of the finite being is his participation 
in the divine, spiritual order; his true vocation is the 
continuous approximation of his finite life to the infinite 
requirements of the law of this spiritual order. The 
divine will is the bond of union between finite spirits. 
God, as Malebranche finely said, is the place of spirits. 1 
The divine life or spiritual moral order has thus ap 
peared as involved in the very nature of self-conscious 
ness ; it is the reality which, in the earlier exposition of 
Wissenschaftslehre was called the idea of the absolute 
Ego. A new aspect is thus given to the whole nature 
of reason, theoretical and practical, for both appear as 
related necessarily to this ultimate unity. So far as the 
individual is concerned, there now comes forward, in 
place of mere formal independence abstract freedom of 
thought and self-dependence in action the free resigna 
tion of the individual to the law of the divine order, 
with love for it and active effort to give its precepts 
realisation. The position of morality, as expressed in 
the Naturrecht and Sittenlehre, has been transcended 
and absorbed in that of religion. The will is no longer 
thought as striving to realise only its own freedom, but 

1 Rech. de la Verite, B. III. Pt. ii. ch. 6. "Demeurons done 
dans ce sentiment, que Dieu est le monde intelligible ou le lieu des 
esprits, de meme que le monde materiel est le lieu des corps." 

198 Ficlite. 

as continuously endeavouring after full harmony between 
itself and the divine moral order. 

The relation between the earlier and later forms of 
Wissenschaftslehre seems, therefore, perfectly intelligible. 
In the earlier doctrine the ultimate notion lay in advance 
as something to be reached by laborious analysis, as 
what is necessarily contained in consciousness. So soon 
as the ultimate notion had been grasped, the Wissen 
schaftslehre, in the strict sense, became of secondary im 
portance. It had, as Fichte said, the value of a path 
and no more. The later doctrine, accepting the ultimate 
idea, the metaphysical unity, to which all knowledge and 
action, however indirectly, refer, has to develop its con 
sequences, and in the course of the development to show 
what place is occupied by Wissenschaftslehre as at first 
conceived. That some points of the earlier doctrine 
receive a new interpretation is certain ; that the whole 
manner of viewing the problem is fresh and original, is 
equally certain ; but it requires little investigation to see 
that the two expositions are in fundamental agreement, 
and that the second of them, though, unfortunately, less 
completely worked out than the first, is the true and 
final philosophy of Fichte. 

It is impossible, within the limits of this sketch, to 
give any adequate account of the various statements of 
the new doctrine successively put forward by their ever- 
active and prolific author. All that can be attempted is 
a very general description of the results which appear as 
permanent elements in these statements, and a notice of 
the difficulties which appear to arise in connection with 
them. For such a purpose the lectures in the Nach- 
gelassene Werke, may be omitted ; the style in them is 

Later form of the Wissenschaftslehre. 199 

so obscure as to necessitate constant and extended com 
mentary ; and they are, probably, not in a shape in which 
the author would have wished them to be laid before the 
public. The most valuable and interesting works are 
the popular addresses on religion, * Anweisung zum 
seligeii Leben, x and the treatise, prepared for publica 
tion, though not actually published during Fichte s life, 
on the Facts of Consciousness. 2 The second of these 
is without doubt the best introduction to the philosophy 
of the later period. The ultimate metaphysical prin 
ciple is approached by a careful, genetic analysis of con 
sciousness in its several stages, from immediate external 
perception to pure thought, in and through which the 
principle of existence is apprehended. The work stands 
to Wissenschaftslehre very much in the position in 
which the Phanomenologie des Geistes stands to 
Hegel s Logic. From the systematic fashion in which 
the several problems, arising in connection with the 
several stages of consciousness, are taken, we can dis 
cern with the greatest definiteness the divisions into 
which Fichte s philosophy now falls, and so trace any 
resemblance to, or difference from, the earlier doctrines. 
In the Wissenschaftslehre, these divisions had been 
two in number, theoretical and practical, corresponding 
to the two main faculties of thought and action, with a 
common introduction. The development of the Wis 
senschaftslehre, circular in nature, had shown that the 
final synthesis of the theoretical and practical was to be 
looked for in the more concrete treatment of what had 

1 Translated by Dr W. Smith (< Fichte s Popular Works, 1873, 
pp. 381-564). To this references are made. 

2 "Thatsachen des Bewusstseyns," Werke/ vol. ii. pp. 535 691. 

200 Fichte. 

been contained in the introduction. In the later expo 
sition, this more concrete treatment appears definitely as 
a third part, following the analysis of the theoretical and 
practical reason, and dealing specifically with the higher 
faculty. It is, in brief, metaphysic or theology ; and here 
only do we find any adequate explanation of the abstract 
statements with which Wissenschaftslehre started. As 
was pointed out, Fichte, in the first sketch of his system, 
adopted an artificial and somewhat forced method for 
bringing forward his first principle, and the nature of 
this method tended to perpetuate the misconception 
under which the whole system laboured. It appeared 
as if the first principle were, somehow, the expression of 
an act or activity on the part of the individual ; that 
reason or consciousness was something possessed by the 
individual an accident or attribute of the conscious sub 
ject. So long as this conception is suffered to hold its 
ground, the whole system must appear as one of subjec 
tive idealism, and the scheme of forms and categories as 
nothing but the logical grouping of individual subjective 
impressions. This, however, is in no sense, Fichte s 
view, nor was it involved in the earlier Wissenschafts 
lehre. He is throughout true to the thought which lies 
at the root of the Kantian and all the post-Kantian 
philosophy, that the individual subject is not per se 
an independent, self-existent reality, but has his being 
only in and through reason. The ultimate distinction 
between self and non-self, on which individuality is 
dependent, is not made or, to use the technical term, 
posited by the individual reason, but by the universal 
common reason. " The Ego, as understood in common 
fashion, posits neither the external object nor itself, but 

Letter form of the Wissenschaftslehre. 201 

both are posited through general, absolute thinking, and 
through this the object is given for the Ego, as well 
as the Ego for itself. . . . But without exception, 
Wissenschaftslehre has been understood as if it said 
the very reverse of what has just been laid down." ] 

The analysis of theoretical cognition in the "That- 
sachen," contains little or nothing beyond what has 
already appeared in the earlier Wissenschaftslehre, and 
differs only in the total omission of the somewhat tech 
nical phraseology and of the dialectical method there 
employed. More important modifications, though not 
alterations, appear in the treatment of the practical 
faculty, that through which reality is given to the mere 
form of knowledge. 

As in the earlier exposition, the key to the new develop 
ment is found in the activity of the Ego an activity of 
which the Ego must be reflectively conscious, if it is to be 
Ego at all. The Ego is only conscious of its activity, in 
so far as that activity is limited or opposed. There thus 
lie in the consciousness of the Ego the three elements, 
feeling of impulse or striving, intuition of activity, and 
the representation of the obstacle to activity, a repre 
sentation which is the work of productive imagination. 
The most abstract expression for this necessary limita 
tion of the activity of the Ego is force contemplated as 
matter of intuition ; and this, again, may be described as 
matter in general, or corporeality. The essence of the 
external thing is force, and it is the thought of force as 
lying behind the specific modes of feeling which we call 
sensations, that gives to the object of perception its 
qualification as an external, real fact. 

1 Werke, vol. ii. p. 562. 

202 Fickte. 


The Ego, then, is only conscious of itself as activity 
in a corporeal world, but to be conscious of itself as 
active in relation to the corporeal world, it must be for 
itself corporeal. The body or corporeal organism is the 
Ego as an objective thing. The Ego is a possible object 
of intuition only in so far as it is corporeal. At the 
same time, the Ego exists for itself only in and by reflec 
tion, and reflection is in its very essence limitative and 
separating. The Ego, therefore, can be conceived only 
as one of many Egos, which are united in thought, but 
manifold for intuition. A system of individuals, cor 
poreally distinct from one another, is thus the condition 
under which self-consciousness is realised. 

The three main features of the representation of the 
world as objective have thus been deduced, a system of 
Egos, a system of organised bodies of these Egos, a world 
of the senses. All of these are to be regarded as modes 
or ways in which the infinite life of consciousness mani 
fests itself. Distinction or difference among them is not 
absolute, but relative to the nature of finite consciousness. 
Fichte, therefore, with justice, repudiates certain famous 
distinctions which have played an unfortunate part in 
philosophy, among others, the distinction of soul and 
body. From the speculative point of view, the soul, as 
popularly regarded, is but a kind of ghost. Soul and 
body are the forms under which imagination, or percep 
tion, if we prefer a less ambiguous term, contemplates 
the limited, definite activity of the Ego. At the same 
time, his view is not to be identified either with material 
ism, which likewise endeavours to regard all finite ex 
istence as the form of some underlying substance or with 
subjective idealism, which regards external reality, and 

Later form of the Wissenschaftslelire. 203 

the existence of other Egos, as modes of the individual 
consciousness. The one system is incapable of explain 
ing consciousness in general ; the other fails entirely 
to render a reason for the difference or multiplicity of 

The system of finite spirits into which the one life of 
consciousness separates itself is, for intuition, a numerical 
multiplicity, without bond of union. But the physical 
nexiiSj which is impossible for them, is not to be thought 
as the only link of connection. The free activity 
which underlies individual consciousness, is no mere 
natural force, but, when received into consciousness, is 
the ethical or moral freedom of the individual spirit ; 
and with the recognition of this ethical freedom free 
dom under absolute law a new view is opened out. 
In the consciousness of the moral end which is to be 
realised, the individual is one with the community of 
individual Egos. The infinite life, if it is to be realised 
at all, must have expression in individual forms ; and 
each finite spirit is an individual, and is aware of him 
self as an individual, only in so far as he has individual 
duties, a special sphere of moral action. We must 
therefore think of the infinite life in which we find our 
place, not as absolute in itself not as mere capacity of 
action but as the means of realising the moral end. 
The individual finite spirits are the modes in which this 
infinite life expresses itself, and each has his definite 
position, his definite line of action, prescribed for him. 
No individual is originally or by nature moral ; nor can 
he discover a priori what his specific moral vocation is 
to be. But he becomes moral, or attains to a conscious 
ness of his vocation, in and through the continuous effort 

204 Ficlite. 

to realise that supreme end which unites him with all 
other finite spirits in an ethical community. No indi 
vidual form of the infinite life perishes ; but no individ 
ual either is here, or will be in all eternity, an independ 
ent being. Immortality is not beyond this life, but in it. 
" There is no more striking proof that the knowledge of 
true religion has hitherto been very rare among men, 
and that, in particular, it is a stranger in the prevailing 
systems, than this, that they universally place eternal 
blessedness beyond the grave, and never for a moment 
imagine that whoever will may here and at once be 
blessed." 1 

The analysis of consciousness has thus led Fichte to a 
conclusion resembling in all essentials that already stated 
in the Bestimmung des Menschen. The concluding 
portion of the work 2 introduces a new notion or at least 
a change of terminology, which has given rise to much 
misunderstanding, and has caused excellent critics, such 
as Erdmann, to pronounce the later philosophy out of 
harmony with the earlier Wissenschaftslehre. The in 
finite life that which underlies all consciousness has 
been seen to be the infinite means of realisation of the 
supreme moral law. Its form or expression for intuition 
that is, its phenomenal manifestation in actual experi 
ence is the world of finite spirits and of nature as the 
organised limit of these finite individuals. But the in 
finite life is thus thought only as an endless, continuous 
change a conception which is in itself incomplete or 
imperfect. The infinite life must be thought as being as 

1 < Werke, vol. vii. p. 235. 

2 " Thatsachen des Bewusstseyns," sect. iii. ch. 5; Werke, vol. 
ii. pp. 680-691. 

Later form of the Wissensclmftslehre. 205 

having fixity and permanence. It cannot reveal itself, 
save as the revelation of that which is ; and its revela 
tion is thus distinct from its being (a distinction, how 
ever, which is only for us i.e., for consciousness). This 
being, which reveals itself in the infinite life, which 
manifests itself in the form of individual consciousness or 
knowledge, which exists not apart from its manifestation, 
but yet is as opposed to this manifestation, is the supreme 
unity of thought a unity not to be perfectly compre 
hended, not to be grasped in thought, but seen to be the 
ultimate inconceivability. To this supreme unity Fichte 
gives the significant title God ; and in it he finds the 
ultimate notion of all consciousness. " Knowledge as a 
whole, is not mere knowledge of itself ; but it is know 
ledge of being of the one Being which truly is i.e., of 
God. In no way is it knowledge of a being external to 
God, for such is impossible beyond the being of know 
ledge itself or the intuition of God ; and the supposition 
of its existence is pure nonsense. But this one possible 
object of knowledge is never in its entirety present to 
knowledge, but appears ever as broken into the necessary 
forms of knowledge. The exposition of the necessity of 
these forms is Philosophy or Wissenschaftslehre." 1 

The obscurity of these detached expressions may be 
somewhat removed by calling attention more definitely 
to the exact problem which Fichte now has before him, 
and by referring for a more detailed treatment to the 
popular lectures on religion. 2 The problem is in sub 
stance the ultimate question into which run all philo 
sophical or theological speculations that of the relation 

1 Werke/vol. ii. p. 685. 

8 Anweisung zum seligen Leben, 

206 Fichte. 

between the finite spirit and the universe, of which he 
seems to form a part. Whether we call this universe 
God, or nature, or matter, or force, is of comparatively 
small moment : its character for us must depend entirely 
on what we think as the innermost essence of the finite 
spirit, and on the mode or kind of relation between this 
finite spirit and the ultimate reality. JSTow for Fichte it 
has become apparent, from the mere systematic analysis 
of consciousness, that the very essence of the finite spirit 
is the combination of the consciousness of moral determin 
ation with the consciousness of practical activity or will ; 
and that through this, its innermost being, it is one 
member of the ethical community of spirits, whose sole 
aim is the infinite and constant effort towards the reali 
sation in nature of the moral end or purpose the subjec 
tion of nature to reasoned freedom. The individual is 
thus a mode or form of the process by which freedom 
is realised, and the infinite series of individuals makes up 
the complete system of modes or forms in and through 
which the moral life, the divine plan, is to be carried 
out. No one individual exhausts th$ possibilities of 
this divine life ; and as opposed to its infinite being, the 
existence of any individual must be thought as contin 
gent or accidental. Nevertheless, only in and through 
the form of individuality i.e., of self-consciousness 
can the divine life receive expression. Thus nature, as 
object of intelligence, and self-consciousness as the essence 
of intelligence, appear in their true place. They are 
modes of the manifestation or realisation of the moral 
law or ethical end. Things and finite spirits are not to 
be thought as developments of some inconceivable, me 
chanical necessity, but as the form in which the moral 

Later form of the Wissenschaftslehre. 207 

order the highest expression of the reason we find in 
us has existence or reality. 

It is hardly surprising that, in dealing with this ulti 
mate problem, the terms employed should often fail to 
convey exactly the significance of the thoughts involved. 
Theology, which is for the most part a bad mixture of 
metaphysics and popular conceptions, has suffered more 
than any other branch of human thinking, from the im 
possibility of expressing speculative results in the lan 
guage of ordinary life. For thought, whether popular or 
general, is in essence abstraction that is, tendency to 
separate what is inseparable, to give permanence and 
apparent independence to that which is transient and 
dependent. Thus the relation of the infinite moral order 
to the finite modes in which it takes expression for itself, 
is hardly to be thought without danger of falling back 
into the old theological error of severing entirely from 
one another God and the world of nature and finite 
spirits. That Fichte altogether escapes this danger can 
not be said ; but so far as it is possible to judge from all 
that appears in his later works, he was well aware of the 
danger ; and one must account it an error to ascribe to 
him the view that Being, or God, or the ultimate reality, 
is distinct from the manifestation or realisation of it in 
the world of consciousness. 

The special theology or theosophy of Fichte s system, 
as was said, is most definitely stated in the lectures on 
the Doctrine of Religion, and what is there given 
may be accepted as his final utterance on the supreme 
problem of speculation. As in the earlier Wissenschafts 
lehre, though with much greater fulness and concreteness, 
the exposition is twofold : first, a logical development 

208 Fichte. 

of the relation between the ultimate reality and its 
form or mode or manifestation ; second, a psychological 
history of the stages or forms of reflection by which 
this relation is received into the consciousness of the 
finite thinking subject by which it is viewed, appre 
hended, or understood. 1 It is in this second portion 
that Fichte begins to connect in one organic whole the 
elements of his system which, in the earlier Wissen- 
schaftslehre, had been suffered to remain detached from 
one another. 

The function of thought, as opposed to mere opinion, 
is to conceive of being, of the ultimate reality which 
underlies all objects of knowledge. True being is one, 
unchangeable and perdurable. But in its unity and 
unchangeability it does not exist ; it has no reality ; it 
is mere abstraction. To say merely that God &, is to 
say nothing. The existence or definite realisation of 
being, that, in and for -which only opposition between 
being and existence is present and necessarily present, 
is consciousness, conscious life, the life of knowledge, 
thought and action. Now in consciousness there is 
found the root of all the multiplicity of experience ; for 
the very essence of consciousness is reflection, character- 

1 The mode of exposition adopted by Fichte in the work in ques 
tion resembles somewhat the well-known method of Schleiermacher s 
Theology. He proceeds by an analysis of the elements involved 
in the religious consciousness, the mode of thought in which the 
apparent reality of the world of sense is recognised as apparent mere 
ly; in which the finite being contemplates, snb specie ceternitatis, his 
own existence and the being of all things ; in which he is penetrated 
with the intellectual love of the real divine life underlying the appar 
ent world ; in which he becomes one with this divine life, and lives 
and works for it alone. The closing portions of Spinoza s Ethics 
furnish the best commentary on the Doctrine of Keligion. 

Later form of the Wissenschaftslehre. 209 

isation of the one reality by separate, individual marks. 
Just as light, in itself colourless, is, in relation to the 
eye, broken up on the surfaces of things into many 
various hues ; so the unchangeable life is by reflection 
and in relation to consciousness broken up into infinitely 
varied forms. Consciousness, which contains in itself 
the element of opposition, can never transcend itself. 
To it the one being, apprehended by pure thought as the 
one being, must ever present itself in the form of repre 
sentation, conception, in the form of separate individ 
ual things. " The visible forms which by this separa 
tion are imposed upon absolute reality are discernible 
only in actual consciousness, and in such a way that in 
the act of observing them we assign to them life and 
permanence and they are by no means discoverable 
a priori by pure thought. They are simple and abso 
lute experience, which is nothing but experience ; which 
no speculation that understands itself will ever attempt 
or desire to comprehend. " 1 

Thus the one reality, the one life, the life of conscious 
ness, which is the manifestation of God, breaks itself up 
into an endless multiplicity of individual forms, forms 
which in the experience of the finite spirit must present 
themselves as independent, self-existing facts, but which 
for thought are only modes of the one, infinite life. The 
finite spirit may apprehend this world of phenomena and 
its relation to the real system by reflective consideration 
of it ; and of such reflective consideration there are five 
distinctly marked stages. 2 The first is that in which the 

1 Doctrine of Religion, p. 447. 

2 It appears to me beyond doubt that Hegel, in the famous preface 
to his Phanomenologie, has Fichtein view as well as Schelling ; and 
further, that much in the Phanomenologie is due to Fichte s lectures 

P. IV. O 

210 Fichte. 

world, as matter of outer sense, is regarded as the only 
existence and the only reality. Such a view is mani 
festly imperfect and partial the things of sense are only 
there for thought ; and a system which, abstracting from 
thought, proposes to treat them as self-existent facts, 
of necessity throws out of account the most important 
factor in the process of knowledge. This is, in essence, 
the view already dealt with in the first book of the 
Vocation of Man : it is the view of much popular 
philosophy, and it is the speculative groundwork both 
of selfish Epicurean morality and of ethical pessimism. 

The second view is that in which the ultimate reality 
is regarded as the law of independent, free intelligences, 
with equal rights. From the conception of such a law 
may be deduced (as was done in the earlier Wissen- 
schaftslehre, and, implicitly, in the Kantian system) the 
existence of finite Egos and a world of the senses. The 
essence of this view is the notion of the abstract inde 
pendence of the thinking subject, and in this consists its 
imperfection and one-sidedness. It is a purely negative 
standpoint, maintaining, beyond doubt, the freedom of 
the individual will, but rejecting all possibility of uniting 
moral action with consciousness of the supreme end, and 
love for it. 1 The law upon which the individual rests, is 

on the Doctrine of Religion. The treatment in the Phanomenologie 
of the gradual rise from immediate perception to pure thought is 
more extended and richer than what appears in the .Doctrine of Re^ 
ligion, but the general resemblance is striking and unmistakable. 

1 This is, in substance, the criticism of all the post-Kantian think- 
ers upon Kant s notion of the categorical imperative. It appears in 
Schiller, Schleiermacher, and Hegel. The view, as a whole, is that 
of formal morality, and its historical representatives are to be found 
in the Stoic and Kantian systems. With what is said by Fichte may 
be compared Hegel s remarks in the Phanomeuologie, pp. 147-149. 

Later form of the Wissenscliaftslelire. 211 

only a law of order, not a creative rule. The third view 
takes up into itself what is of value in the second, but 
gives to it a higher and deeper significance. In the higher 
morality, as Fichte calls it, 1 the individual is filled with 
the desire to realise actively the divine will. The moral 
law, and that which springs from it rights and state 
mechanism are regarded only as means whereby the 
ideas, which represent in our consciousness the pre 
scripts of the divine will, are to receive manifestation 
in fact. Acceptance of these ideas the ideas upon 
which rest art, science, the polity of nations and religion 
and self-renunciation for them, are the only sources 
of truly noble action. "Everything great and good 
upon which our present existence rests, from which it 
has proceeded, exists only because noble and powerful 
men have resigned all the enjoyments of life for the 
sake of ideas." 2 The heroic life is the life of the 
higher morality, of devotion to ideas. 

Even this heroic life manifests in one of its aspects 
an imperfection. " So long as joy in the deed is mingled 
with desires concerning the outward product of the deed, 
even the possessor of the higher morality is not yet 
perfect in purity and clearness ; and thus in the divine 
economy, the outward failure of his deed is the means 
of forcing him in upon himself, and of raising him to the 
yet higher standpoint of true religion that is, to the 
comprehension of what it really is that he loves and 
strives after." For if he is truly penetrated with the 
love of the divine law and life, he will recognise as the 

1 It is the view expounded in the third book of the Bestimmung 
des Menschen. 

2 "Grundziige d. gegen. Zeitalters," Werke, vol. vii. p. 41. 

212 Fichte. 

one thing above all value the development of the divine 
life in him. He is one manifestation of the divine life : 
all that he does or thinks is the act and thought of the 
divine life. That the result of his thought and action 
should not correspond with his conception or desire will 
not affect him. The object of his will is only "that in 
the conduct of each individual there may be manifested 
purely that form which the essential divine nature 
has assumed within this particular individual that, on 
the other hand, each individual may recognise God, as 
He is outwardly manifested to him in the conduct of all 
other men ; that all others may, in like manner, recog 
nise God as He is outwardly manifested to them in the 
conduct of this particular individual and that thus 
God alone may be ever manifested in all outward ap 
pearance." l 

Eeligion, the fourth stage of reflection, which 
thus consists in regarding and recognising all earthly 
life as the necessary development of the one, original, 
perfectly good and blessed life, may indeed be real 
ised in conduct, although the individual has not the 
clear consciousness of the thought which animates and 
directs his efforts. But in this consciousness, the 
final standpoint of science or philosophy, all others are 
contained and involved. " Religion without science is 
a mere faith, though an immovable faith ; science su 
persedes all faith and converts it into insight." ^ " From 
the beginning of the world down to the present day, 
religion, whatever form it may have assumed, has been 
essentially metaphysic; and he who despises and de- 

1 Doctrine of Religion, p. 533. Cf. " Grundzuge," Lect. xvi. 

2 Doctrine of Religion/ p. 460. 

Later form of the Wissenschaftslehre. 213 

rides metaphysic that is, everything a priori either 
knows not what he does, or else he despises and derides 
religion." 1 The final and crowning stage of the devel 
opment of the individual consciousness is therefore that 
in which the finite spirit by thought or reason appre 
hends the organic plan of existence, knows with clear 
ness the intimate nature of the relations which unite 
him and all other finite spirits in one community of 
free intelligences with a common aim and purpose, 
and thus subjectively realises the supreme synthesis 
of thought. 2 

1 " Grundziige," Werke, vol. vii. p. 241. 

2 It is impossible to do more than call attention to the fact that 
under this view historical Christianity must be interpreted somewhat 
differently from the ordinary or popular fashion. In the " Anwei- 
sung " (Lecture vi.) and in the " Staatslehre," Fichte enters upon a 
very elaborate comparison between his theory of religion and Chris 
tianity, as expressed in the Johannine Gospel, which he regards as 
the only authentic or pure statement of the Christian faith. The 
distinction drawn between the historical and the metaphysical ele 
ments in Christianity (particularly in the appendix to the sixth lec 
ture) has had great influence on the later speculative theology in Ger 
many. It would require, however, a very detailed treatment to 
show precisely Fichte s position to theology. Lasson s work ( J. G. 
Fichte im Verhaltniss zu Kirche und Staat, 1863) is very thorough. 
There is also a monograph on the subject by F. Zimmer ( J. G. 
Fichte s Religions-Philosophic, 1878). 




OP the two stages into which Fichte s speculations have 
been divided, only the first has exercised any influence 
on the historic development of philosophy, and to it 
consideration must be limited when the attempt is made 
to define the historic value of the system. As has been 
already indicated, this value appears to lie in the ex 
tended application made by Fichte of principles implicit 
in the critical philosophy. It is not too much to say 
that the full bearings of the critical method only become 
apparent when viewed in the light of the development 
it has received at the hands of Fichte and Hegel. In 
the Kantian system, the problems of speculation were 
taken up in the form presented by the antecedent, 
popular philosophy, a form essentially limited in scope, 
and it was therefore matter of some difficulty to dis 
cern the real import of the new treatment to which they 
were subjected. One may even say that from Kant 
himself the significance of much of his work was con 
cealed by the limited and partial character of the ques 
tions which presented themselves to him as the essential 

Concluding Remarks. 215 

problems of speculative inquiry. In the critical philo 
sophy can be traced the transition from the somewhat 
narrow, psychological method, characteristic of modern 
thought, to the larger view of speculative problems 
which recalls the great work of the Greek thinkers. The 
analysis of human knowledge, which had been for Locke 
and his successors the sole function of philosophy, appears 
in the critical system as part, though an essential part, of 
the more comprehensive inquiry dealing with the whole 
round of human interests, to which only the title philo 
sophy by right belongs. The question how the human 
mind, regarded as a thing of definite or indefinite char 
acteristics, comes to have the filling-in which we call 
experience, opens out, when duly considered, into the 
much wider problem as to the relation of any individual 
consciousness to the sum total of things, a relation which 
may be either cognitive, or practical, or religious. The 
merely subjective or psychological analysis of the cog 
nitions possessed by the individual mind, even if the 
result, as stated in Locke and his followers, be accepted 
that such cognitions are effects produced we know not 
how still leaves at an immeasurable distance the true 
problems of philosophy. For it offers no explanation of 
the nature of this individual consciousness, formed in 
whatsoever fashion ; effects no junction between it and 
the universe of things supposed to originate it ; and can 
offer as final philosophic solution nothing beyond the 
barren propositions that experience somehow is, and that 
it consists of states of the individual mind. 

Enough has been said, in the introductory remarks to 
the account of Fichte s system, to show that this solu 
tion is internally incoherent, and also to indicate where 

216 Fichte. 

the root of the incoherence is to be found. If we start 
in our philosophic inquiry with the supposition of an 
individual mind and a system of things, no human inge 
nuity can ever effect a reconciliation between the two 
isolated members of our hypothesis. The notion of indi 
viduality, one of the hardest to solve, has been the 
stumbling-block in the way of all the eighteenth century 
philosophy, and it is the pre-eminent merit of the critical 
system to have for the first time subjected the notion 
to detailed and rigorous treatment. The forms under 
which the critical method is applied such as the dis 
tinctions between a priori and a posteriori elements 
in cognition, between matter and form, between pheno 
mena and iioumena, between sense, understanding, and 
reason ought not to disguise from us the true nature 
of the question which underlies all of them. How 
knowledge becomes possible for any intelligence, is in 
fact the problem how are we to think, under one of its 
aspects, the relation between individual consciousness 
and the wider sphere of reality? 

To Kant himself, as was indicated, the full bearing of 
his work was not apparent. There still runs through all 
the critical work, the obtrusive idea that the ultimate 
reality is the individual consciousness, given as a fact, 
and that this individual consciousness is mechanically 
related to the sum of existence. Hence arise the nu 
merous obscurities and inconsistencies of the Kantian 
system. Term after term is introduced in order somehow 
to effect the final synthesis between the individual mind 
and the wider sphere disclosed by reason; but such final 
synthesis is never reached, and indeed never can be 
reached, if at the outset an absolute difference is postu- 

Concluding Remarks. 217 

lated. 1 That there lay in the Kantian system the germs 
of a wider, more comprehensive solution, was undoubted ; 
and the work of that which is called by pre-eminence 
German philosophy, has been the development of these 

To this development, the first great contribution was 
the Wissenschaftslehre. In it the critical method was 
carried out with definite consciousness of its full import, 
and the effort was made to work out systematically the 
thought upon which that method rested, and to apply it 
to the resolution of the whole body of philosophical 
problems. It has been, historically, the misfortune of 
the Wissenschaftslehre, that only its earlier form has 
played a part in influencing subsequent thought, for the 
defects of that form are manifest on the surface. Earn 
estly as Fichte strives to enforce the doctrine that self- 
consciousness, which is for thought the ultimate ground 
of reality, is not to be regarded as individual, but as 
that in and through which individuals are, and are con 
nected with one another, he never succeeds in divesting 
his system of a certain air of subjective idealism. More 
over, the special applications of his method in the sphere 
of concrete, historical reality, show that in certain im 
portant aspects it had not yet lost its abstractness. His 

1 The forms of this ultimate difficulty are well known to Kantian 
students. They appear in the constant tendency to regard thought 
as analytic, in the independence assigned to sense-affection, in the 
subjective solution offered of antinomy, in the abstract deism of the 
Kantian theology, in the formalism of the Kantian ethics, and in the 
obscurity attaching to the critical treatment of teleology. The con 
jecture may be hazarded that, had Kant been penetrated with the 
spirit of the Cartesian philosophy, had he known anything of Spinoza 
as he certainly did not his work would have been more systematic 
and fruitful. 

218 Fichte. 

treatment of empirical science, of aesthetics, and of his 
tory in the widest sense, is essentially abstract and 
barren. 1 In fact, although Fichte was perfectly suc 
cessful in seizing the critical principle, and in apprehend 
ing its universal bearing, although, further, his work 
manifests a wonderful subtlety and skill in tracing the 
necessary consequences of the principle, he was not able 
to evolve systematically from it the whole body of phi 
losophy, nor do his results form a complete and perfectly 
concatenated whole. It was left for a later philosopher 
to take up afresh, in the light of the Wissenschafts- 
lehre and of Schelling s contributions, the critical prin 
ciple, and to incorporate all that was of value in them 
in one comprehensive system. The Hegelian method 
contains nothing but the systematic development of 
that which had already been brought to light in the 
Wissenschaftslehre ; but as opposed to Wissenschafts- 
lehre, the Hegelian work has all the value of the system 
to which the other has been the introduction. In some 
respects, it is true, an introduction has advantages over 
a system. The treatment is occasionally freer and more 
independent ; and so one may always assign to the * Wis 
senschaftslehre an honourable position alongside of the 
Hegelian work, and may obtain from it much light on 
what is obscure in the systematic result. But so far as 
solution of the philosophic problem is concerned, there 

1 At the same time it is to be said that the continuous objection 
to the Wissenschaftslehre by Schelling and Hegel, on the ground of 
its neglect of Nature, is not in all respects justified. So far as Natur- 
philosophie is concerned, Fichte s position seems to us much more 
secure and in harmony with the philosophic notion than that of 
either Schelling or Hegel. The weakest portion of the Hegelian 
system is, beyond all question, the philosophy of nature. 

Concluding Remarks. 219 

seems nothing in the Wissenschaf tslehre which is not 
carried out with greater concreteness and fulness in the 
later system. 1 

With this view of the historical value of Fichte s 
philosophy, it seems unnecessary to attempt any state 
ment as to the relation in which it stands to what one 
may call the present radical opposition of philosophic 
doctrines the opposition between Hegelianism on the 
one hand, and scientific naturalism or realism on the 
other. 2 A single remark, however, may be permitted 
upon the defect already noted in Fichte s system, for 
this defect indicates the point towards which, as one 
may conjecture, philosophic thinking must be directed, 
and at which the opposed doctrines touch one another. 
The final notion of Fichte s philosophy, expressed 
more clearly in the later works than in the Wissen 
schaf tslehre, has been seen to be that of the divine 
or spiritual order of which finite spirits are the manifes 
tation or realisation, and in the light of which human 
life and its surroundings appear as the continuous pro- 

1 The historic influence of the Wissenschaf tslehre is not ex 
hausted in its influence on Hegel. At least two offshoots from the 
Kantian philosophy owe much to the Fichtian method and principles. 
Except his pessimism, which is no necessary consequence of the sys 
tem, there is absolutely nothing in Schopenhauer s philosophy which 
is not contained in the later works of Fichte. And Herbart s Meta- 
physic, though deviating widely from preceding systems, owes no 
small portion of its fundamental notion to Fichte s analysis of reality 
as simple positing by the Ego. 

2 Hegelianism is here taken in a wide sense. It is not implied 
that all or any who in the main would rank themselves on this side, 
are inclined to accept the Hegelian work in its entirety. A thought 
ful and instructive notice of what is here called the radical opposi 
tion of philosophic doctrines will be found in Professor Masson s 
Recent British Philosophy (3d ed. ), pp. 277-297. 

220 FicJite. 

gress in ever higher stages towards realisation of the final 
end of reason. Under this conception, the oppositions of 
thought which play so important a part in philosophy, 
Being and Thought, Mind and Nature, Soul and Body, 
Freedom and Law, Natural Inclination and Moral Effort, 
Mechanism and Teleology, are reconciled. They ap 
pear in their due place as different aspects of the several 
stages in and through which the spiritual order is real 
ised. But, as has also been seen, the element wanting 
in Fichte s system is the definite reconciliation between 
this view of the spiritual development of reason and the 
natural, historical development of nature and humanity. 
It is this second element that forms the substance of 
modern scientific realism ; 1 and, as in Fichte s system the 
difficulty is the transition from the spiritual to the real 
order, so here, the counter-difficulty of transition from 
the real order to the order of thought presents itself as 
the ultimate problem. Of the value of scientific real 
ism as a contribution to philosophic reflection, there can 
be no question. Every effort of speculative thought is 
affected by the general condition of knowledge, and 
every advance in scientific inquiry opens up new aspects 
of these notions through which explanations of specula 
tive difficulties have been found. The problem which 
now lies before philosophy is, in brief, the effort to re 
think the new materials that have been furnished in such 
ample quantity. So far, however, as scientific realism has 
yet endeavoured to offer a metaphysical explanation of its 
own procedure, its success has been small. The attempt to 
regard thought as somehow arising from mechanical con- 

1 A system of which Mr Spencer may be taken as the best known, 
though by no means the only or the best, representative. 

Concluding Remarks. 221 

ditions has only resulted in the reappearance of the old 
perplexities which pressed with such intolerable weight 
upon the earlier English philosophy. We cannot regard 
thought as merely a product, a thing, of which the char 
acteristics are due to the nature of the mechanical ante 
cedents out of which it has arisen. When we do so, 
we are at once confronted with the problem, how are we 
to conceive the nature of these antecedents 1 By sup 
position they are not in thought, but external to it, and 
therefore never to be reached in thought. Shall we 
then say there are varied modes of consciousness, 
thoughts of different kinds, and, as these are products, 
they must be due to some ultimate reality, the nature of 
which is for ever inconceivable 1 This is merely to give, 
as explanation, the impossibility of any explanation. 

A fundamental difficulty of this nature is clear evi 
dence of the abstract or one-sided character of the 
principle which has been applied. It is not possible 
that the view of thought as a thing or product should 
also be competent to explain the nature of thought as 
self-consciousness. Keflection upon self, in which the 
individual consciousness transcends its own individu 
ality, through which only it can recognise itself as one 
with other individuals, is not explicable through the 
notion of mechanical composition. Nor is scientific real 
ism more successful in the application of its favourite 
conception, that of development. Neither the evolution 
of consciousness, nor the concrete nature of consciousness 
which appears as the final term of evolution, can be re 
garded as completely explained by mere reference to the 
simplest, most abstract elements involved in the develop 
ment The true notion of humanity is not to be found 

222 FicMe. 

by consideration of the undeveloped thought, but in 
thought in all the fulness of its concrete life and reality. 
The external history of the several stages by which 
human thought and culture have developed, though an 
indispensable auxiliary to philosophic reflection, can never 
be accepted as adequately solving the problem of the 
significance or meaning of experience. The full treat 
ment of the whole mass of empirical detail is impossible 
without a more thorough metaphysic that is, without a 
more systematic discussion of the notions by which ex 
perience becomes intelligible for the conscious subject. 
No contrast is sharper than that between scientific 
realism and the philosophic method of which the Wis- 
senschaftslehre is a type; nevertheless the two are 
complementary, and the very sharpness of the contrast 
shows that in the reconciliation of the apparent differ 
ence between them lies the problem for our present 
speculative efforts.